Highway

The black asphalt goes broke into the sky
Amid gray trees that vanish in dense fog.

Tea steams in mud cups, near the shack.
A few fry-oil smells assault hungry noses.

Man sends leisurely smoke swirls in air.
Urchins swarm around acrid old tire fires

Their palms held up to warm to the heat.
A rickety bus kicks up dust in a distance.

Right, said old conductor to his skin bag
With new currency notes and ticket stubs.

The cleaner-boy stood on the foot-board,
His tattered shirt flying like a windy flag.

A man motions to slow down near village.
The man speaks steam into the winter air

Of stale village politics, of women at home
Of crops failing to suck vapor from the air.

Giant trees disappear into the red earth.
Their bodies are now and then sprawled

Across the roads of progress, their leaves
Easy food for the passing herds of goats

That will give white milk to the villagers
And warm red flesh to hungry stomachs

In the afternoon, bare hills breathe fire
Their trees stolen by greedy contractors

At night their thorn shrubs are set on fire
Leaving black stubble on the bleak faces.

Giant trucks rumble on  a potholed road
With Tata and Okay on painted behinds.

Those with evil eye will have black faces
As their drivers stop for bath in the canal.

Men in hole

They went underground wanted,
They being wanted down a hole.
They were not rebels or sheeters
Of a body’s history behind iron.

They went in a hole not like Sita
Not to return only to be blamed
For the adultery not committed.
They are not wanted by history.

No one wants manhole workers.
The job is shitty and the clothes
Smell a city’s gentrified morals.
A bread in a mouth is so putrid.

(Three days ago four city workers died in a manhole they had entered for a cleanup)