On Steep Himalayan Roads

by Zilka Joseph

I read the warning:
It is better to be late, Mr. Driver
than to be the late Mr. Driver

and wondered who heeded
these words, these big red letters
painted on grey boulders near dangerous

curves in the mountains.  The bus
drivers scoffed, laughed,
and reckless as gods

hurtled us down the slopes, and I, child
of the seashore and delta, quaked
at the sheer drop, feared the next

turn, the small rolling stones
that could start a landslide.  I did
not know your words then,

but when I did, I wept for the elephant
forced off the cliff
by the Hun who so loved the sound of its scream

that he sent his soldiers to drive more
over the edge.  How their mothers
still search!  These mountains

birthed you.  Your footprints
appear.  Veiled, your dream
recurs.  You wrote about falling

even as you fell.  Departures.
Delays.  Crossings.  Arrivals.
I am ready.  The trail begins here.