by Sayeeda T Ahmad

The perfect time to hike the trails of the Bandarbans,
“dam of monkeys” in Bangla.
Be wary of capped leaf monkeys, and capped langur,
as you clamber up the grassy peaks of Keokaradong and Saka Haphong.
Goat on nimble feet,
thickset branch clasped in one hand,
instinct in the fingertips of the other.
You must know to skip past the rotting leaves,
hiding python or king cobra princelings beneath,
on your way down to Sangu River, and back on the trail.
Thin spirals of smoke linger in the air as the jhum chaash goes on,
slash and burn, slash and burn.
Better to hike now, climb now in the dryness,
than let the monsoon mudslide kill you next season.

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