The mountain trail is steep and unforgiving
yet the coolies ignore their burdensome pain
as they stoically haul backbreaking crates.
They sweat for their bread, but we’re only hiking
in fancy attire from lives far more vain.
Holy men tell us, “It’s all unavoidable fate.”
Now at a tea stall with coolies gathering
one asks for “five kilos” of hash to obtain
and we foreigners are aghast at the weight.
Five kilos of hash seems shocking
Until someone kindly explains.
Its not a weight but a distance rate.
High on hash, for a five-kilo trek slows a coolie’s gait
allowing him time to enjoy the climb, forgetting his coolie fate.
— by Sabio Lantz
- Prompt: by Samuel Peralta at d’Verse Poets to write a “Trireme Sonnet”: It consists of four tercets (with rhyme scheme ABC-ABC-ABC-ABC), followed by a heroic couplet (with rhyme taken from one of the above tercet lines, AA, or BB, or CC).
- Background: This poem is a true story of one of my days in the himalayan foothills.
- “Coolie” is the word for a porter in India and captures the real feeling for the oppressed labors I have known.
- “Hashish” (“hash”) is the potent resin from a marijuana plant was readily available in the hill country of India.
- “Holy men” refers to the sadhus I would often stop and chat with — to the surprise of many Indians. But I was in India working on a Ph.D. in comparative religious studies — they were a fantastic source of information and great entertainment.
- Photo: borrowed from UC Press.