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A poem from my eBook of selected poems "Ellisian Fields", which you can download for free at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/388044

Scaling the Holy Mountain.

Imageby Tim Ellis19 Jul 2014

Pleading that they’ll save us much hard work
the motorcycle hustlers are insistent,
but we prefer the pilgrims’ path: the walk
 
that wanders up away from these persistent
pesterers buzzing the road-route helter-skelter.
We want to look for birds and view the distant
 
vistas of the fertile Mekong Delta,
hiking in the mountain’s cool fresh air
above the choking Chau Doc City swelter.
 
There stands a massive concrete Buddha where
the trail begins, outside a bright pagoda,
fixing the suburb with His doting stare.
 
Dubious devotees have dumped a load of
garbage at the feet of this smug fellow
- plastic food trays, empty cans of soda -
 
not what you’d expect from those that follow
a thoughtful faith, but what is more upsetting’s
the puzzling corpses of a dozen swallows
 
mixed in with the muck, like black confetti.
We scale the holy mountain tramping over
plastic bags entangled like spaghetti,
 
but hear no tell-tale trill nor flutter, ever.
The hillside’s shorn of trees, and looking up
we note no flick of wing nor flash of feather
 
until we gain the temple at the top.
It’s here - the peaceful tinging bells competing
with many tourists’ babblings; with the pops

and raspberrys of scooter engines beating
up the metalled road, their riders vying
to take us down again - we catch a tweeting:
 
pitiful tears of captive swallows crying,
compressed in crates. Although to us it’s plain
that some of them are dead, the others dying,
 
their captors smile, oblivious to the pain
of what they sell for “merit of release”,
which yield to stress if they’re not caught again.

...smug and concrete smiles, quite at ease
with all the hollow rituals of past ages,
doting down on rice fields with no trees
 
and cities where a public disengages
with gifts from Heaven, stifled in their cages.