Russell Market By Maurya Simon

What I want most is what I deeply fear:   
loss of self; yet here I stand, a “memsahib,”   
all decked out in wonder, and still a stranger   
amid the harvest, old gaffar at my side.

Here’s a pandit preaching in the flower stall:
he turns funeral wreaths into wheels of rapture.   
I must shrug off my notion of knowing anything   
of substance about the world, about the spirit.   

Sparrows dart between the columns like music.   
Huge pupae, bananas split their golden skins;   
flies moisten their hands in bands of dew.   
Lepers limp by on crutches, in slow motion.   

Where is there order in the world? None,   
none, I think—no order, only spirals of power.   
The pyramids of onion, guava, melon—all defy   
my reason: they shine like galaxy-driven planets.

A balancing scale becomes a barge of plenty,   
a cornucopia endlessly filling up and emptying.   
The wages of sin are more sin: virtue’s wages,   
more virtue—and all such earnings, weightless.   

I’ve forgotten my errand; I float now through   
myself like a howl through a phantom mouth—
the world’s an illusory marketplace where I   
must bargain hardest for what I hope I’m worth.
Maurya Simon, “Russell Market” from Poetry 164 (July 1994). Used by permission of the author.

Source: Poetry (July 1994).

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