Russell Market

By Maurya Simon b. 1950 Maurya Simon
What I want most is what I deeply fear:   
loss of self; yet here I stand, a “memsahib,”   
all decked out in wonder, and still a stranger   
amid the harvest, old gaffar at my side.

Here’s a pandit preaching in the flower stall:
he turns funeral wreaths into wheels of rapture.   
I must shrug off my notion of knowing anything   
of substance about the world, about the spirit.   

Sparrows dart between the columns like music.   
Huge pupae, bananas split their golden skins;   
flies moisten their hands in bands of dew.   
Lepers limp by on crutches, in slow motion.   

Where is there order in the world? None,   
none, I think—no order, only spirals of power.   
The pyramids of onion, guava, melon—all defy   
my reason: they shine like galaxy-driven planets.

A balancing scale becomes a barge of plenty,   
a cornucopia endlessly filling up and emptying.   
The wages of sin are more sin: virtue’s wages,   
more virtue—and all such earnings, weightless.   

I’ve forgotten my errand; I float now through   
myself like a howl through a phantom mouth—
the world’s an illusory marketplace where I   
must bargain hardest for what I hope I’m worth.

Maurya Simon, “Russell Market” from Poetry 164 (July 1994). Used by permission of the author.

Source: Poetry (July 1994).


This poem originally appeared in the July 1994 issue of Poetry magazine

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July 1994
 Maurya  Simon


Maurya Simon was born in New York, the daughter of an ethnomusicologist father and artist mother. She has lived most of her life in California, with periodic travels abroad—including a number of years in Europe with her family when she was a child. Simon studied at the University of California, Berkeley; she earned a BA from Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and an MFA in English and creative writing from the University . . .

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SUBJECT Money & Economics, Social Commentaries, Activities, Travels & Journeys


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