The Kalbelia Queen Looks Bored
Her child shuffles on the roof
He slides around on the seat of his pants
She says he doesn’t walk unless someone is helping him
She is pregnant.
She stomps the marble floor like she is slapping a man’s face with her foot
Her hands are flowers
She reaches in and out. Inviting and denying entry to her gypsy world
She tickles the sky and sweeps the ground with her face
I want to go to the tents.
I want to see where music is born.
A Trip to the Tents on the Edge of Pushkar
It looks as if they are just passing through.
Even after 20 years have passed.
Their tents are rooms of their home
Some for sleeping, some for storage.
Some cook inside their tents, inhaling smoke.
Others drink 35 rupee moonshine and lose their minds.
Babies are born backwards and inside out.
Babies are born with genetic material mirroring itself
Their eyes tell the story
What will they do?
How will they rise above the competition of impoverished India?
Who will care for them? And why would they do it?
Where is God?
Why is she letting this happen over and over again?
A baby cries for a mother who wants her to die.
She lays alone on a tent thirsty and hungry.
The other children run around the camp all day,
Torturing puppies as if they had no feeling.
They are covered in dust.
Thorns fester deep in their skin
So many are burned.
When I picked up the child she stopped crying.
The other children have seen this before.
A white person comes and holds the child that can do nothing for herself.
Her condition worsens by the day, but she will not die.
Her parents say no one can take her.
They want to be with her when she dies. They reference the ground.
They will bury her here, beside their tents.
What amount of suffering must come in between?
Driving Toward the Core of Earth: The Next Rebirth
An 11 month old child crawled down a well.
They showed me her picture.
They must have had it printed for the funeral.
Her brother had been watching her
when the irrigation well entered the path
of a child not yet 1 cycle of the sun.
Her siblings now wear stained red ribbons around their throats.
Their mother again shows me the photo.
She asks for cream. She asks for money.
I tell her I give money to the school. Send her children to school.
The grandmother calls to Brett from a tent higher up the hill.
She demands her monthly bribe of tea and sugar.
He obliges. If that keeps her grandchildren in school, he will do it.
The mountains stand around the camp and witness it all.
Puppies and Baby Goats
Brett thinks that it actually costs them more money to feed the goats than they make from selling them. “That’s why it helps to learn math,” he says. Holy shit. The bottom has dropped out.
“They may have other systems besides math,” Ranjana said.
The family goes to the neighbors’ houses when they need money.
They sing until they are paid to go away.
Some Hate Anyone Called Gypsy
They see the musicians with dark skin and gold earrings and they turn away.
They see the women beckoning and run.
They see the children dancing wildly. Hair styled with dust. Clothes streaked with god knows what. They precede the wedding party.
One boy walks by wearing a winter jacket. Only. The music begins.
He unzips his coat and starts dancing wildly in the street naked.
He doesn’t care.
The children pick each other up and set each other down. They dance the music into their fingertips and out of the soles of their feet.
The other children find us eating falafel in the street.
They put on the face. The eyes. “Chapati. Chapati.” they chant.
The restaurant owners shoo the kids away and look sternly at their customers.
“Don’t give them anything,” they say. They don’t want problems.
The French woman is not that hungry.
She gives the oldest boy her falafel and the group disappears.
The bride’s family has paid for these guests. These gypsy women carry the strings and stands of lights. The men play horns and drums and an obnoxious organ. At the end there is one more man, wheeling an oily generator. They will make their money for the day.
The groom rides a horse. It’s his last chance to get away.
So many women are wearing red. I have no idea who the bride is.
I suppose it doesn’t matter. We are wed to the universe with each breath.
-written by Alicia Freedman February 2017