Questions of Travel

Mani Rao is the author of eight books of poetry and a forthcoming translation of the Bhagavad Gita from Autumn Hill Books. Her poems and essays are in Almost Island, Softblow, Zoland Poetry, Tinfish, Fulcrum, and anthologies from WWNorton, Penguin and Bloodaxe. Links to her publications are on Mani lives between Hong Kong, India and the USA.

Eyes … skies. Why say immeasurable, as though you have tried to measure it. Thoughts wings leave no trace. Disturbing when birds do not fly in formation. What you see in other eyes could be anything, depending.

Stride … mountains. Sleeping dog, hunched dragon, leopard glide, giant stirring, stretching, walking.

Heart … ocean. Calm, tender, tumultuous, light, warm, cold, stone, winged, amputated.

These three points are a three-cornered constellation, and collude to form a person or place. Traveling on a clear day, you recognize. Every thing else is incidental.

The annihilation of the incidental comes from contact with a location is the end game of the writer reader traveler. Until then you are tourist.

Traveling reading writing living journeys from one to other. Physical travel also has a physical other – new architecture, new physiognomy, new sensory detail, new language.

Person, place – locations.

When two locations come in contact they stare. Children and travelers have this liberty. Two trains pull into a station alongside each other. Double-glazed windows. The person across this glass looks at the person across that glass who looks back at the person across this glass. Smiling would be unnecessary, even an annoyance.

You are literal. Places are circumstantial. Circumstances are beside the point. When you have made contact with and recognized the constellation of a place, the writing is incidental. The best writing is incidental. Oceans and mountains are everywhere it is only your sight that is obstructed. The sky is only if you say so. Any destination does. Town, street, room, person, page, word.

For a place to reveal itself to you, your journey must be alone. There can be no human alibi when you weep in bliss among the trees. Troublesome enough to be wearing flesh than to have company. Bring it down to two bags for you have two hands although one is better it is always a good thing to wave to a stranger. Stranger than what? Watch no television, you want to smell a place. Wear no perfume and be wary of people who do, perfume interferes. Carry no camera, respect the deaths memory must conduct. Buy no souvenirs, especially from souvenir shops. If you have to eat out at restaurants, look for a waiter or chef with a loving expression, eat there day in and day out. Be friendly, but know, that you do not have to answer every question. If you find yourself distracted by someone, leave town. As for language and meaning, try to be tolerant about the charade because you will get to a place when you love momentarily.