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April 1, 2012 vol 8 no 1

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Sonam Chhoki

A Lesson in Light

It is my two-year-old daughter's first total lunar eclipse. We light butter lamps and offer special prayers. My father thumbs his prayer beads and says: "Demons have taken the moon. We must make them return it."'

We gather in the neighbourhood with an assortment of pots, pans, old tins, conch shells and drums. Sliver by sliver, the earth's shadow covers the moon until its rim is a fine luminous line. We strike up a cacophonous outburst swelled by the yowls of stray dogs and jackals. As the moon vanishes my eyes pick out Orion's belt and just across, the glowing red Aldebaran eye of Taurus. I point these out to my daughter. She says:

'Look, butter lamps in the sky!'

The moon glides out of the earth's shadow. My daughter holds out her winnowing basket to catch it.

a dragon
falls out of the dusk sky
red sun in its mouth