Agra Road

by Bill Yarrow

“Do you seek in the heart-shaped palace
the cold telos of love?” the guide asked us.
Everyone nodded yes. I stared out the bus
window into the face of a ripe monkey
whose owner demanded forty rupees for
any photographs I took. Is there nothing
willing to forgive the terror of its cost?

Beyond a jade gate, a lotus pillar nods to
a braided fort. To enter in this colloquy,
you must take off your shoes, and when you do,
it is 1653, the year of the diamond moon.
Mughals rule the candied land, alligators bask
on the soft edge of the Yamuna, but in the iron
sky, the ivory birds are still the birds.