VARANASI, MURKY BUTTERMILK
Varanasi was built by prayers, one on top of each other. Shiva told me - and you shouldn’t get into fistfights with Indian gods, they usually win. But in Varanasi light meets darkness, heaven meets hell, compassion meets rupees. Monkeys lick the wounds on the kneecaps of the dying; street dogs steal chapati while you check your iPhone. Still, you’re in love. Still, you want more. The Ganges runs through the city with craniums and hip joints. The smell from the pyres stings your nose bridge. When you breathe, the air is thick with ancestors. The lukewarm cokes are bipolar in their bottles. In the elevator, you meet Goldie Hawn who is visiting a guru. She has brought her facelift and a lazy perfume that lingers in the mirror. The air conditioning rules the lobby; a strong breeze carries away your passport until it ends up in a fountain. Your stamps dissolve; now you haven’t been anywhere but here. Back in the city ashes burn through your skin; the smell of karma stays in your silk shirt. The Ganges is murky buttermilk. To the right, Belgian backpackers take selfies on a barstool. To the left, a mother dies in the arms of Vishnu. God listens to our prayers, that’s why we die so young. If Dali had painted Varanasi, naked monks would fall from the boiling sky; prostitutes would offer discount nipples to foreign fat cats; cripples might conquer souls with melancholic mantras but Dali was a different kind of monk. The evening is a dark blessing. Sweat returns to your T-shirt. For a second, faith is an umbrella and I hear a voice: Could I live in this city where God and Devil are one?
Peter H. Fogtdal who describes himself as a ‘human being, an author and a zebra lover’, has participated in poetry at #CeWoPoWriMoWE ‘during the summers of 20 and ’21. Only this year, while calling for ‘bios’ for the journal, did it become known that he is a full-fledged Danish novelist with a startling work like ‘The Tsar’s Dwarf’ to his credit ! He is an author and poet from Copenhagen who lives in Portland, Oregon. His works in English are the poetry collection My Crimes of Gelato and a historical novel The Tsar’s Dwarf.