from Suddhodana’s Poems
We bent the camels’ legs back at the knees
and bound them with rope, then we tethered them
to a tree and left them in the scorching heat.
The whole camp aromatic with onion, cardamom,
tamarind, cumin – even the dusk seemed spread
with the crimson marinade we’d mixed for the basting.
We could almost taste the slender straps we’d soon
lift from the bones, camel meat sweetened by the fat
drawn from their humps. When, finally, we slaughtered
the beasts, those humps lay slack across their backs.
The meat filled twenty-nine platters and the grease
dripped from our fingers, the wine filled our mouths
and the sharp grains of salt where our vows
spoken again to the future. We licked our hands
and laughed because we were foolish young men
whose hearts were as hard as kilned clay,
as ugly as the faces we saw in the snarled hair
of the sky, as strident as the shrieks of the brain-fever bird
telling us death will come out of the hills,
the deserts, the skies. We were drunk on wine,
arrack, on the blood spilled after we slaughtered
not just the animals, but their drivers too,
thick-browed, slope-eyed interlopers from the north
who wore the faces of demons, ones that turn
our crops to dust, our milk sour, our sheep, goats
and horses barren, our elephants rogue, our altars cold.