AT RAJ GHAT
This is where Gandhiji was burned at death.
What remains is a square of black marble
and where the head might be, an urn of ash
as a memento, for the Mahatma
now swims in the Jamuna and borders
New Delhi. So many deaths and burnings
glow in votive candles and marigolds
dropped like golden dust across the slab:
Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi,
and at the eastern end of Raj Path,
India Gate, a 42-meter-high
stone arch of triumph that bears the names
of 90,000 Indian Army soldiers
who died in World War I, the North–
West Frontier operations, and — confused — in the
1919 Afghani War.
This is where Gandhiji’s flesh burned brightly,
shooting up from beneath mounds of flowers
like a sudden brush fire, or a flare
saying, save me, save me, save me, and you
save yourself! Marigolds shiver in breezes
pouring back from the river and spill dust
like tiny ingots of blood that glow gold
in sun. You are one of thousands of pilgrims
who touch the stone, who bow into yourselves
and feel cool blackness below burning gold.
What remains is a slab of black marble
and a beautiful park with labeled trees
planted by Queen Elizabeth II,
Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ho Chi Minh.