Knowing full well,
in my fortieth year,
that I know nothing,
often I wonder
what is right and fitting
in the living,
when knowledge of the debt we owe the dead
begins to hurt.
A woman at Fatehpur Sikri,
wanting a child,
was tying a thread
behind the tomb
of Salim Chisti, Akbar's priest,
her husband standing by,
and as she rose and turned away
I caught her eye, and knowledge passed between us.
Akbar, they say, walked barefoot from Agra,
having no son and heir, to see the priest,
and when his promised son was born
he had this palace built, and on the gate
the lesson he had learnt inscribed:
The world is a bridge.
Pass over it, but do not build
a house upon it.
Sitting in the sandstone courtyard
where the light falls on the walls
like warmth upon a skin,
I know I love you. And I know
that that is all I know.
I'm walking barefoot. Let us go
to scatter petals,
rose and marigold,
on the silken counterpane
of Salim Chisti's tomb.
Let us honour the living and the dead.
Let us tie a thread.