augury doggerel

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

Planet X, Snow

It will be my father's birthday soon. Where he lives now, it has snowed eight feet since Christmas. Houses have all but vanished. It's the sort of snow people can stand in short doses every hundred years or so.

Three quarters of a century ago he was born in Calcutta, where January is warm and dry. He was a boy in the Punjab, in Rawalpindi, where his father served in the British colonial army and where, incidentally, a treaty had just been signed granting Afghanistan independence.

The army life around him would have smelled more of leather and horses than motors and steel. A movie soundtrack was a piano score. Sore throats killed. Crocodiles swam in the water. A ninth planet around our sun, Planet X, was mere speculation by the man who saw canals on Mars.

And there was no atomic bomb.

Now India and Pakistan, standing puffed chest to puffed chest, are threatening to ignite hell on the earth's surface. Calcutta and Rawalpindi would go in any first exchange, but that would be only the start.

And winter could come.


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