How long can you sit still

in one place, not blinking, not twitching, not scratching
an itch on the far side of your back, not even to shield
with a broad leaf from the peepal tree your face from the sun?
How long can you suffer the noise of passing rickshaws,
jeering children, the ungainly parade of goats and cattle,
quizzical stares from passersby, the village simpleton’s
dropped jaw from wondering in a brief moment of lucidity
if his place of honor has just been usurped? And how long
can you listen past the drone of dragonflies and the chorus
of frogs at night, during the day the swish of scythes
in unison moving across the fields for reaping? The well
of silence is long and deep and full of echoes.
Birds fly across the opening, where the sky is framed
as through a porthole in a ship, a piece of glass
at the end of a long telescope. Rain, twigs, and stones
drop unseen into its depths, and it is difficult to hear
how long it takes each of them to reach the mossy bottom.

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