Four Poems

    By Aranya

    1. Searching…

    google knows what I did last summer,
    the fragrance of my soap. It knows that I’m hungry
    even before I do. The state has ten national agencies
    peeking into my computer (for my safety, of course).
    Restaurants, banks, hotels, cinema halls, cafes
    are in hot pursuit, a hiccup away. They’re
    discussing where I’ve been, where I’m going.

    But nobody can tell me where Najeeb is.

    The mysterious circumstances that surround Najeeb’s disappearance, and the police’s failings, have been well documented in the media. For readers who would like to know more:

    2. Dilli Pulis: Two movements
    (December 21, 2019)

    At Mandir Marg police station, I saw,
    as I stepped off a private bus spilling
    with young anti-CAA protestors,
    the oiled moustache
    of a havaldar waiting for the student
    whose tremulous gait cradles his fear.
    His eyes gleam with the flower
    of defiance, his lips atremble
    with hope, and impertinence.

    A smile quietly makes its home
    in his eyes, as he turns to me-

    “It’s my first time”

    — A few kilometres away
    in another cage,

    Outside Daryaganj police station,
    on the darkest night of this winter yet,
    an orange nucleus of fire,
    a piece broken from the sickled
    moon, began to smart, and sputter,
    now red, carved
    into the palm of a tailor.

    The night lay writhing,
    ablaze in his eyes as he
    stepped out of the police station
    after a 7 hour rendezvous with
    pain –

    “It’s my first time”

    On 20/12/2019, many underprivileged young Muslim men were taken into police custody at Daryaganj Police station, Delhi, from around Jama Masjid. They were kept in the police station overnight. Articles that refer to this event.
    Anti-CAA protests: 15 arrested in connection with Delhi’s Daryaganj violence
    CAA: From Daryaganj to ITO, the protest night that was
    *The title and form is a tangential reference to A. K. Ramanujan’s ‘Madura: Two Movements’

    3. salt
    (December 2019, New Year’s Eve at Shaheen Bagh)

    Where is a slogan born?
    When does a sack of
    rice begin to speak?

    The moon laughs tonight
    as didi roasts the revolution
    in her tava, before feeding
    the hands that distribute
    pamphlets, and anger.

    We sell poems cheap, but poetry
    you can do without. What will you
    do when they steal the fire
    from your eyes?

    O, my land,
    you are salt,
    quiet confidante
    who I know by her absence.

    This city is a cauldron of smoke
    and fog, tear gas mixed with cigarette
    draught, exhaust fumes folded into smog,
    and ashes.

    I lift my head and taste the rancid

    The wind has changed.

    4. A hundred and twenty five days* of solitary confinement

    This city stretches tired legs, drapes curtains
    of silence over those she disdains tonight.

    The candles are lit, dinner is ready, bring wine
    we’ll marinate our anger in love tonight.

    Do you remember how we met? Did the moon
    unspool into questions as she does tonight?

    death is no stranger to this land of fixers,
    we must be discreet in our protest tonight.

    Dogs howl at the dwindling light, tread with care as
    You tiptoe through the winding bazaar tonight.

    A browser window is the needle that tells
    me that it is too late for mourning tonight.

    When the soul flies from the body’s cage, do not
    flinch, a heart of fire beats elsewhere tonight.

    A son mistakes his childhood for a stone. The
    valley is midwife to azadi tonight.

    What is this parody of separation?
    I cannot be a silent witness tonight.

    The gates of the promised land must remain shut.
    Hold my hand. Let us be gatekeepers tonight.

    *Written 125 days after the abrogation of article 370 that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir. A period of curfew and complete lockdown ensued, with an unprecedented communications gag on the entire region.

    Aranya is a poet who is currently based out of Delhi, a place to which he does not belong.

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