Trees moved along, clouds too
with the moon, the about-to-drown orange-sun
in sooty hours, slow;
they boiled down to a single feeling:
and I saw markets, old and new
where they sold, the same things—
Flesh of goats, cows, pigs,
hens or roosters, ducks
(they wore red, like lipstick
they wore clothes that failed functions
like hides, hung
over bones and clotheslines).
Nothing has changed
like red silk-cotton flowers
on green grass, they remained
Sometimes, I saw guns too
and brooms, that cleaned blood
like milk spilled by a cow’s hind-legs-kick
from the milk-maid’s knee-hold.
The same street, and people
and blood, guns, flesh traded
It all remained the same
like a blood red morning sun
with the newspaper, red
roasted flesh they still drink tea, brownish red
Once I saw a river too:
legends flowed on its simmering leaves
carried, with soil and life.
I sat on its bank and listened.
When they ended,
I found myself
on its bank: not in a time beyond
when people were afraid to cross it wearing
gold bracelets, silver toe-rings—
In case, a stormy wave swallowed them
a wild wailing wind from the untamed forests
hit them hard, pushed them into the river.
I felt I was going back.
And I found myself, amidst the river winds,
and legends that its white sands reeked
like rotting fish, jasmines, cow dung,
Maybe this road, this journey
would also end in the same despair
And I would wait, stranded amidst smells
of fish, jasmine, cow-dung.
Though I was moving forward,
continually, I felt
as if I was going back.
Don’t know where—but I knew I would end up
where I started
so I went on.
Flesh, fragrance, jasmine
fish, cow-dung, women
and then the red colour
sometimes silk-cotton flowers
or the blood which I mistook
Actually, stamping our feet
should have only awakened her,
but surprisingly, her motionless, senseless body made us run around
look for water, seniors and women
as if the fifty year old lady was in labour.
So more feet stamped while they sprinted anxiously
for women, water and a pair of open eyes.
We found her lying under the bed, a machete
clutched in her hands, drawn with love
towards her breast, as if to fight the whole world
of alien Hindi words, stamping feet and a camp
of green-men near the river where women no more
bathed, after many women were stripped,
even before they shed their second skins,
who didn’t blush only before the morning sun.
She must have thought,
she would be one of them now
who were peeled to be enjoyed by many;
For hours since, she dared to speak silently to walls,
cicadas, four puppies huddled around a milk-heavy bitch,
maybe she thought, she would be one of those
who came back with crushed testicles to wail for nights
like hernia patients, while their wives burned
forever on beds fearing opinions and wobbling tongues,
though there was nothing as such to crush in her.
But perhaps only squeeze, though they were dry.
And hung like weaver-birds’ nests
from coconut branches in loamy soils.
She had been sleeping, the crumpled bed said,
the hot-water bag her earning city-son brought from the concrete-jungle slept
instead of her on the bed; and when I sat on it exasperated,
after breaking the only entrance to the house,
it was still warm with fear, comfort and urine.
We were only playing military-military.
Carpet grasses had just started growing from below.
We couldn’t smoke if we wanted to,
or watch films in cheap halls,
join the ULFA if we wanted, as we can do now.
But still, those were better than days when we sneaked behind tamarind trees
and sang Bihu couplets to same-age girls, who had just learnt
to wrap a piece of cloth around their chests and giggled
poking each other in parts we were embarrassed to utter the names of
before our elders.
We had new shoes then, the neglected Durga-idols waited
to be immersed in rivers and we thought,
one night—eating peanuts, jalebis and besan-pakodas,
to knock at aunt’s door, while she slept with
the puppies, the walls and the heavy yet trying-to-be-warm air
inside, where she was left alone, to wait for us
Who pretended to wear boots, speak Hindi
and ask about the ULFA
Even I have words.
I can clay-mould them
I have languages, literatures
They crawl back centuries,
Grandmas circulated them; with betel nuts
on courtyards under honeyed moons,
like rains, they drench minds, and more—
When first-drenched ones are time-parched,
to the new ones who are parched for stories.
With time, they have descended
Like seasons and mists, to rest with us.
I have tunes too, books
written on bark with earthworm's blood;
they are different,
independent, like these rivers
in my chest, legends- laden
mournful, yet swelling with energy furious
Love-lost like singing spring birds
Anonymous, beyond the hills
Where rivers and rains are born
To flow down as legends, life-blood.
My history is different, defined
by grandmas, rivers, hills,
singing spring birds behind green trees
and seventeen victories.
My words: they have legends in them.
The way tea-leaves run in my veins
instead of blood.
Stories, of new-born speaking from backyard graves
About dogs transforming into man
Man to sheep, goats
And a girl, singing through lime trees,
gourds and lilies from backyards.
And I still wait, for a warm embrace
My throat peacock-parched, in longing
All the rivers from my land
legends, rains weary
Cannot quench my thirst, I need your love
Don't you see,
Even I have words.
And stories to tell you
Are you eager to listen, at all?
Issue 32 (Jul-Aug 2010)