Soil to Stone

Soil to Stone

Colorful plastic jugs
buoyant ancient urns
without braided handles or bucolic images on their silent form
float above the heads of tired and thirsty women
shoving their way toward a water truck
Each plants their feet solidly beneath the lone spigot
refusing to relinquish hard fought ground
In desperate need of more than their container will hold
they take root until it is full
Brimming pots shimmering in the sun
festive as balloons or paper lanterns
pulsating red orange purple green
and the yellow of the mustard flower
are hoisted onto heads
balanced on seasoned shoulders
for the long hot journey home
Specks of color scatter slowly
through the haze of a barren landscape
In another parched province
in a different queue
water is rationed to pacify the poor
Standing atop a battered blue mobile water tanker
twenty or more men plunge the ends of long hoses into an open hatch
creating a cascade of cylindrical streamers
as each tube bends to its owner on the ground
Handed up so water may through it flow down
to water-seeking wayfarers 
drawn like withered animals
to the mire of the last water hole
sucking what they can
stooped below a modern medusa
The mortal granddaughter of Earth and Ocean
cursing both
looms above a ravaged land
a symbol of agriculture’s Green Revolution
that turns the soil of India to stone
It is a wearing misery
the daily search for water
that no longer seeps through hardened ground
nourishing native rice millet mustard and sesame
Rain-fed crops grown from saved seeds
sustained peasants on their plots of land until
beset by swarms of corporate locust
and their plague of proprietary products
they surrendered their fields to synthetic strains
of cotton corn wheat cane and soy
Thirsty plants requiring lethal doses of fertilizer
drain the last drops of water from depleted soil
decimating a quarter million varieties of Indian rice
and a quarter million Indian farmers who
burdened by unbearable debt
crushed by a global market driven by greed
turn their hands from the raining madness
to strike themselves down
to die with their land
To Vandana Shiva

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