My great uncle, a surveyor for British Indian Railways,
eats star fruits and spits out seeds
as he walks through rural India.
He scrapes off mud stuck to his boots
on the grass. Then later, in the lamplight,
he writes letters in long hand to his company bosses—

Estimated, there are ten million trees on this tract
between the swamp of Osmunda and the hills
of Pathangar. Half of the trees
are mahogany, a quarter tick

and remainder worthless, only brushes. So far,
I have counted over three hundred types of birds
although they are mostly woodpeckers
and ordinary doves. I have seen animals

that are not mentioned in the company handbook.
Vine hangs like a choker from the wild bramble.
I have discovered valleys hidden between the hills
filled with foxglove, goosefoot and goats-rue.

Dragon-flies and spotted butterflies thicken the air
with a sing-song orchestra. Ponds are green with algae,
lichens and lotus frond. Daylong
fish-breathings bubble on the surface.

If Her Majesty wishes to build a railroad this way, I say,
it will be treacherous affair. Especially
constructing a dam over the Osmunda Swamp will require
at least ten thousand strong men.

Then he falls asleep listening to snakes breathing in the tree holes.




Sankar Roy, originally from India, is a poet, translator, activist and multimedia artist living near Pittsburgh, PA. He is a winner of PEN USA Emerging Voices, a Rosenthal Fellow, a finalist for Benjamin Franklin Award, winner of Skipping Stone Award and author of three chapbooks of poetry. Sankar’s poems have appeared and forthcoming in over eighty journals and anthologies.