New Delhi, Beyond the AQI
The king’s lane, papayawhip-paved. Smog on the lemonade children. By November, everything underwater. Crop-burn and tobacco clouds on evening sounds: fast-car honk, tin snips on sheets, railroad tracks. Old canard that the city drowns in its own black cloud. Not even the Ganges-sister, in her tar-pits and flying foam moves. The khirni tree, old and full-grown, ever standing by white marble, cuts its days short. In the Ridge, a macaque threatened by a fruit-eye. Discovered in the fog lights, a silhouette its dangling child, crossing the asphalt. Wind whistling through a crunched hole on the ground. Our car stops, mile on mile of nothingness. A barn owl shrieks. Layers of mink-ash air, like breaths tucked in a gray-haired blanket, coarse and scratched, surviving for a day and a day more yet going on winter after winter without question. Candle flame like a watercolor ghost, burning, smudged steps ahead. We become children of the shadows save tooth and nail, cornflower white, dug into the dust of the sun.