The Red Rain of Kerala

Flies rage among the roses / as if in the throes of rabies

A photo illustration of the poet Christian Bok
The Walrus

Ashen skies of the tempest
hemorrhage, dousing this
mirage of jungles in shiraz.
Hindu oxmen of the fields
halt the plows, the drovers
gazing in dismay at dismal
clouds. White saris redden
with lavish wounds, poxes
abloom, like lotuses of ink,
unstaunchable. Wild dogs
drink this plague from steel
bowls filled by the squall,
each butcher spilling vats
of oxblood into the gutters.

Flies rage among the roses
as if in the throes of rabies,
the village but an abattoir,
where slaughter discolours
windowpanes of rainwash
with an azo dye, staining
slides for our microscopes:
behold, no spores of ruddy
algae; no terracotta grains
of pollen; no russet lichen;
just a gouache of crimson
spatter, whose downpours
scorch the groves, igniting
flambeaux from umbrellas.

We, the reapers of the red
hay, torch these meadows
awash in a diluted lacquer
that fluoresces, rubescent,
like an emission spectrum,
redshifting from the Red
Rectangle Nebula. We are
the heirs of your invasion,
the children of your ergot
and your Ebola, every cell
of hemoglobin, a microbe
descended from these seas
of rust, blown by a sirocco
across the tundras of Mars.

Christian Bök
Christian Bök is an experimental poet. His book Eunoia, in which each chapter is restricted to the use of a single vowel, won the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002.