And one morning the fires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings –
and from then on I only knew Fire.
I saw many learn the language and speak its tongue. I saw it spread across the land and engulf every hill and valley.
From that day, the thugs roamed the land, demanding an identity from all they met.
One day they came up to me and asked where I got my nose from, then noted my address.
From that day, the children were led away and the parks closed down
and the blood of men ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood, then hardened into memories, glistening black.
Many pick them up on their way to work.
From that day, I heard only speeches and no songs, and each night was pitch black and the playgrounds were filled with embers and broken bottles. I knew that Joy was gone. And in its place, the gangrene bloomed.
Here is the monument –
You will remember
The stark and lifeless
Temerity of my voice,
Which I had hoped
Stone would harbour.
My monument standing
Over the done diseases
That my body bent to;
Over the forgotten scars
Of my body’s life;
Here is my calcium,
Stone, to drink,
Here are the buboes now
In deep clasts of quartz.
Over time my nameless edifice
Will acquire a new identity
Like a ruined temple or church;
People will still come around
Some to study, some to play –
It, being there, will change
The woods, change the land,
Maybe sprout a garden round it.
Family, friends and lovers
Will no longer add charm
To the memory of the man,
Only the monument will exist.
After the grandchildren, who
Dares burden themselves
With the heavy load of Memory?
Best that strangers lead this task –
Your historians and archeologists
Yes, the monument will no longer be mine
But is any monument ever truly ours?
King Corona !
You’ve come back !
Khlam, your old name,
Come back to us;
Shwar, your old name,
Come back to us.
King Corona –
As they were left,
As they were laid;
From the shadow
You ruled –
Shadow left cold
Upon the body –
Until now afar:
Always Africa, China,
Always far away.
King Corona !
You are back !
Before us – transmutated
Transgendered, terrifying –
Before us now you stand
And we kneel to pray
And try to remember
The deeds you drew
Into our flesh.
Welcome back to the temples you would ransack,
The veins you would sleep in;
Touch us golden, give us power or death, make the flesh anew,
In the womb may we hold you,
Before you go back,
Before your return.
One day a bludgeoned man will become a martyr –
A martyr for his people, and his people will swarm around his corpse, feeding on his blood;
His blood will fill their bellies and drive their thirst;
They will descend on other people and infect them with this germ:
This germ is called Hate
And the murdered Khasi will murder Bengalis,
The murdered Bengalis will murder Assamese,
The murdered Assamese will murder Muslims,
The murdered Muslims will murder Hindus,
The murdered Hindus will murder Pakistanis:
This germ is called Hate
And Fear will raise its head,
And touch every single ear and heart
And those hearts will pound violently –
Their beat, the beat of an unholy legion,
Hidden behind Righteousness;
And Fear will strangle Love;
Love will collapse under the weight
And be laid down alongside
Truth and Decency:
This germ is called Hate
And Hate never baulks, it never blinks:
It is like a fire that burns everyone in its path,
It is like a whisper that contorts itself from ear to ear
Shaping Men’s resolve and weapons;
And Men will hold their arms out, waiting for its brand:
For only Men can hate, not the animals that kill innocently nor the insects nor the snakes;
It moves only within our blood:
This germ called Hate
Where my first love was the smooth lining of the CT scan, where I grew to love symmetry, the colour white and phenyl. This is the only honest room in your entire life. This room knows you, flawed and frail. This room loves you for who you are. This room is where you live for the first time. This room where fathers and cousins struggle. This room, their colloseum. This room which destroys us, this room which rebuilds us. This room to which we must return.
To watch the gardenia ripen outside, watch it rot on the stem. And savour the brief perfume.
How do I eat cake after manna?
Can I chew frog legs, escargo, biryani after this?
All the world’s flavours pale now after this –
Hand-made, hand-rolled, fed to me:
How can I savour sweetness after manna? All things have lost their tastes and I long for more;
Craving, crying out for more –
Sun-dried, fermented, home-made:
How can I enjoy hunger now when I’ll never be sated?
I turn to the skies into which you have leapt. I curse my follies. I wait for the next day of manna.
Oh, when will you come back again?
My Third World Skin. Rich in Melanin. It won’t turn against me, inspite of the UV; not yet – inspite of the threat, from the CO2 and the dents that you [ ] leave.
Abandon me to liver spots, the marks of embraces, the burrowing anger –
In the torrid summer
I smolder, I smoke,
I blow it up into the blue;
I watch those veins pulse
Under your First World skin.
I show you my forearms
Dry, scabby, mosquitoed –
This is a history of my world.
I open your clenched fists,
Linger (too long) on a layer-less love;
I smell your head, kiss it,
Hold it between my palms;
I measure your skull:
This is a history of our world.
I pause as you prepare to go.
Leave something for me here!
Take a bit of me with you!
Return it when you can.
Ah, Hussain, is he dead then ?
Have all his struggles come to this ?
Crying in the dark, covered in mud and piss ?
Is this his body then ?
Is this what becomes of men ?
Did he hold another man’s hand in fear,
The same man whom he would often jeer?
Did he pray to his God or his owner ?
As cold water slammed every corner;
And as every corner turned tomb,
He must have clawed against his doom;
But he drowned in that hell pit, screaming
While above him, all around, the world was teeming:
There’s no good times in a mine, no good times in a mine.
4 AM and outside, in the dark,
The storm slams into the street’s tar;
The gutters sing ghazals,
The ground gratefully guzzles up the water;
The winds slash at me violently
But this concrete square shelters well.
I think of all the times I’d been in love:
I think I was in love with the storms
That brewed inside of people;
I’d never been in love with any one body –
Just the flush of a few moments –
Moments which came as a delicious dream,
Moments that linger on even when
The entire body of courtship is cold.
Despite this, I still prefer this weather,
I still hope and wait for the storms:
When a positive and a negative meeting
Play out their inimitable Beauty on the skies.
Where are the wild things ?
Somewhere in a ritual or habit.
Inspite of the communal hunting.
Our nets and drumming cannot herd it.
We never kill it all.
Wild grizzly freedom is out there in the courage I never had to turn wild.
To turn tiger, jackal, no, rodent.
My heart is smaller than a mole’s. I am not half as bold.
For I fear and love the dark spots under the trees.
The same ones in broken down houses.
In unoccupied hospital rooms.
Something dwells there.
Something still dwells inside me.
And thank god, for that.
For a useless solitude.