Gopilal Acharya

Beneath The Skin
If you will believe me, the
strain died. It fell and died,
not of shortage of breath but
excess of life. And when it
died it went down gradually
beneath the silence. And
men pronounced its death
sighing and crying. Lo, the
cadence, they said and buried
the dead in their helpless sighs.
Yet some men dared not. They
had the grain, but they dared
not. Tortured by their conscience
they grew thin and bald; and still
the desire never left them.
They kept nagging, and they
kept nagging again. Some did,
the weaker ones. They showed
that it could be done. But
they dared not. And again
when the desire warmed their
senses, when the weakness burnt
their skin, and when the absence
scorched their sensibility,
they cried in unison
Alas, the strain dies.
1999, Kanglung, Bhutan


Dancing To Death
the temperature isn't all that bad today
the dusk is lovely and pleasant
but this body works out heat from within
pouring streams of sweat over you
as the low foothills turn into an expansive shadow
a couple of lights, here and there, flicker about
trees now resemble old ink pots
and from within them come forth endless birdsongs
but you sit still sipping tea
your aging mother has placed beside you
then comes in her grandson hollering
and yelling at the gathering darkness
a mountain of orange-gold cloud
disintegrates itself into an empty horizon
and that distant beauty in a milky haze
is now completely cloistered in darkness
but darkness was always here
and probably that distant beauty too
just the history went unwritten
and unnoticed in this part of the world
just look at them, those tired old trees
now resembling stout ink pots
there is a history they wrote on their trunks
for you and I to ascertain our roots
this sound of beauty drenched in music
where fire-flies celebrate their short life
this powder of gold of the night
they disappear way to soon leaving us alone
a couple of grey cats perk their ears up
as they gaze in curiosity at all things around them
and a yellow-colored black dog howls
at shadows scratching fleas off its body
and an old thought now comes to you
knocking a shiver along your brittle spine
the thought stares deep into your weary soul
but just then the moon cracks the night open
and as your father begs gods for forgiveness
and your mother chops pieces of onion rings
you wonder why the moon looks so high up
from the mountains, and so up close from the plains
but as you turn blind to make room for the night
listening to the endless stream of nature's band
your dim 40-Watt bulb is a carnival for insects
some die dancing, but none stops to dance
songs and dances till your very death
how blithe a journey that should be
for nature never wrote a dirge for the dead
only you and I, we wail at the grave


Freedom Song
I never thought about liberty
until that moment
when I was showed the bars.
Immediately I envied my thoughts
for they had no bars.
Shall I show them the bars too?
Cuff and shackle them!
After all, that is how
patriots are born – made.
Shall I be a patriot too
and sing no songs, my own songs?
And think no thoughts, my own thoughts?
No, I decide, I will not be a patriot.
I will rather sing
sing my own song, my freedom song
and think my own thought, my freewill thought.
In haze, I asked that prophet
how he had seen those bars.
I am a patriot, he smiled.
(Did he read my thoughts, that patriot?
My thoughts which I thought
had the liberty, but no bars?)
Mine was no mistake
I was living my life
until someone reminded me
that I was living his.
But, after all, it is life I insisted.
No, he said, some have bars,
and some don't, mine don't.
Feeling disturbed
I said I had my freewill.
He laughed and in mirth he said
he had lent his to me, for the moment, of course.
And as a proof, as I still frowned
he asked me the same question
I had always asked myself
time after time
Why am I behind these bars?
1999, Kanglung, Bhutan


As the sun sets
In the bosom of a forsaken hill
Where killers live
The beaten path
Wears footprints of the dead
Who quietly quit the revolution
A couple of shadows walk side by side
The same beaten path
That wears their footprints
With the setting sun on their backs
They embrace in a strange familiarity
And weep for their killers
10 August 2013, Kathmandu, Nepal


The Rock Must Roll
I belong to heaven, and heaven is my mother's womb
Where life began in earnest, only to be exiled here
Now my life hangs on the edge of absurdity
Just an inch away from the idea of immortality.
I did bide my time rolling the rock up the hill
To entertain death and buy myself some more time
To live as if I have always lived
But then, there are men just like me
Who live as if they've always been dead
And then there are others like the Great Cesar
Who bark at death in arrogance and pride.
I think of my father who sought daily courage
From the dumb warmth of our family altar
Spending hours with the ghastly statues and pictures
Reciting Gita and feeding them sweets
He was only trying to give meaning to his decrepit
act of living without having to contemplate suicide.
(Had it not been for the daily prayers
he would have been long dead.)
There is no way I can get back to my mother's womb
No way I can go to heaven
(My father thinks otherwise).
In the beginning I believed in faith
Now that memory is dead
So is faith.
November 2012, Thimphu


The flower and the song
She lived in a flower drinking nectar
Bathing in fragrance beautiful forever
He lived in a song hidden in words
Beautiful words of love and life
They met in a dream in the setting sun
Hand in hand they promised a life together
Sometimes as a bee he sang to her
Sometimes as a rhyme she put him to sleep
Like the sunflower she was afraid of the dark
Like a piper in trance he feared his own words
And so the buzzing bee sang the night soft
Luring the white moon to shine over the flower
But then stars like mad fireflies came over
In millions and choked the song to death
They killed the words stole the nectar clean
She had nowhere to hide she too was star-struck
So the story goes of lovers done apart
Of she who lived in a flower and he who lived in a song
29 July 2013, Kathmandu, Nepa