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Reading the News from Nepal

by Carolyn Williams-Noren

Early blue bird—in all my windows heaps of bricks
and timbers and faces turned statue with dust.

One way to know the cosmos is paint—
every stroke and point under a master’s eye,
universe saved on a scroll.

Scroll and scroll—

The mind starts playing tricks.
Even when the heart beats loudly
you think it’s a tremor.

What shook was a place where prayers inked on cloth blow free in air.

As the Bollywood song plays in the backdrop, birds fly
and the Kathmandu durbar square crumbles.

What cracked was a place where metal wheels stamped with prayers
spin to spool the words away.


Cold wind. Grid still out, solar lamps still on.

Refrain through the night-Nepal needs more tents, tents, tents.

Young monk in saffron walking,
wooden beads to count the mantras, fingers on one—
the next, the next, loop of them clacking from his wrist.

Click-click a link—
click another link. All week.
This looking is walking a circle.

Next photo of rubble, next photo of people in fear, holding each other. Next photo of huddling under a tarp, next photo of burning, next photo of ashes in the Bagmati. Day comes here and night comes there, and rain comes at night, and more shaking comes there all the time.

I can hear people singing Yo Man Ta Mero Nepali Ho.

I click to sing again in our morning what they sing in their night.

What broke to rubble is a place where prayer
is walking clockwise around a stack of carved stones.

This scrolling, this clicking, is walking a circle, as useless, as holy.
I keep this suffering on my right. I don’t stop. I don’t move at all.

[Note: Lines in italics are from Twitter posts by @shresthasubina, @prashantktm, @sanpokh, and @kashishds]

carolyn-williams-norenCarolyn Williams-Noren was a 2014-2015 winner of a McKnight Artist Fellowship, selected by Nikky Finney. Her chapbook, Small Like a Tooth, is available from Dancing Girl Press.

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