One thought on “Michelle Cahill in Transnational Literature

  1. A brief glimpse of Nepal
    The seductions of the spirit
    Simplicity of directness
    “The Sadhu” contrasts sharply
    With “Snake Lake”
    By Jeff Greenwald
    Another story of Nepal
    More mature in its telling

    Michelle Cahill
    Seems sweeter
    Still retaining
    That edge of youth
    Even as she tells us
    Of desire.
    She holds us
    With her directness
    And honesty,
    Even as she has
    The young woman
    Confess to
    Rebellious explorations,
    From which she is fleeing.
    It's a brief glimpse
    Into a life
    That we would
    Like to see into
    More deeply

    Greenwald's story
    Goes further
    As you would expect
    From a book that
    At over 350 pages
    Explores much more

    Let me share a little
    To give you a taste:

    “The path led among moss-laced trees, ending at the top of a stone stairway that led steeply down to the Bagmati (river). A few of the steps, and most of the masonry retaining wall, had been dislodged by roots and rains, creating a dangerous descent. It was very dark; neither of us had brought a flashlight. We negotiated the steps one by one, gripping each other's hands, elbows bent. I limped slightly. As we came within sight of the river I saw an orange glow rippling on the water, and I swallowed hard. Bodies were burning.

    A moment later we emerged onto an ancient cornice. The crowded temple itself was about two hundred yards downstream, around a bend in the Bagmati, hidden by trees. The downriver sky glowed with an ambient halo, laced with smoke.

    At the river's edge stood two round, flat cremation ghats, a dozen paces apart. One of them was empty and appeared freshly swept. Upon the other lay a shrouded human body, engulfed in flames. We watched in silence, reaching for each other's hands.

    “It's weird that no one's around,” I whispered. “Isn't someone supposed to attend these things?”

    Grace shook her head. “Usually. Maybe it's different tonight. Maybe, on Shivaratri, no one wants to get anywhere near a cremation; they just light the fire and run. I don't know. It's Shiva's night: Shiva ratri. Isn't he supposed to hang out near cremation ghats?”

    “I think so. So what are we doing here?”

    “Don't you want to meet him?”

    It was a recently lit fire. The upper layer of straw had just been consumed, revealing the charring corpse of what might have been a man. But the body's hair had burned away and the skin was roasted and crackling, making it hard to guess his age. One leg was twisted away from the center of the pyre and protruded toward us, out of the flames. We couldn't see the face.

    “A sight you won't see in Missouri,” I remarked.

    Grace smirked. “Not these days.” As she walked closer to the ghat, the wind shifted, blowing the scent of burning flesh our way. “Ugh.”

    “You don't want to get too close. I've watched these things before. At some point the skull will burst, and you might get scalded.”

    “Scalded?”

    “With blood. It can shoot out in a stream.”

    She backed off and stood very still. “It's very beautiful.” She trembled slightly. “The whole body, turning back into energy and ash. I think it's much more poetic than burying people. Not to mention the finality of it.”

    “Snake Lake” (pp 90-91)
    Jeff Greenwald

    Still, I confess
    I appreciate
    Michelle Cahill's story
    “The Sadhu” shows
    Another side of Nepal
    And seems more sensuous
    And charming
    In it's directness.

    yamabuki

    Like

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