Four Poems

By Devashish Makhija

1. ‘mine’

he was mine
until a company cleared our village,
dug a Mine

he now wears khaki

i wear green

we sow bullets in our land
to reap an iron harvest.

(first appeared, in a different form, in ‘FORGETTING’ published by HarperCollins)

2. ‘on a green hunt’

A CRPF soldier sits on a milestone by the roadside
His shoes are a dark bottle green
He glares at our passing car
The automatic rifle thrown lazily
across his left shoulder shifts to the right
as his head turns to inspect our faces
The milestone below him reads ’65 kms’
The name of the town is hidden by
green camouflage print.

It could be the town we’re leaving behind.

It could be the one he’s headed to.

It could be where the police fired
on a crowd of unarmed adivasis who were
protesting the wrongful arrests of
their men and children, killing a few on the spot.

It could be where several villages were burnt
to the ground to teach the adivasis
a ‘lesson’ for sympathising with the Maoists.

It could be where the Maoists tied
a policeman to an eighty year old tamarind tree,
beat him to death and set fire to it.

It could be the town where dalits and adivasis
clashed over the ownership of the lands they till,
where homes were destroyed and two boys hacked.

It could be the town with the board that
announces a new mining project by the
Tata company on the adjoining adivasi land.

It could be a town that used to be an adivasi village
Where the ‘naked’ tribals were hounded out,
and the educated were housed in
brick homes.

Or it could be a town that used to be
a fragrant dense grove of mango trees
One of which was a tribal deity,
and is the only one that remains.

It could be where we would have died to live.

It could be where we were warned not to go.

It could be north of the border in Orissa.

Or it could be south of the border in Andhra Pradesh.

It could be anything.

It could be anywhere.

And it would always be 65 kms too far.

Jealously guarded by those it housed.

Coveted by those who needed it.

Forgotten by those who passed through.

Called different names by them all. At different times in history.

Born in blood.

To die in blood.

But to belong to no one. Its name obscured
by a patch of green camouflage print.

(first appeared, in a different form, in ‘FORGETTING’ published by HarperCollins)

3. UID

I grind my anger between
The whitening tips of my
Forefinger and thumb –
Fingerprints furiously fornicating,
Lines changing shape
Like fleeting creases
In a bedsheet

From tomorrow my thumbprint
Will refuse to
Identify me

I might rage again
My fingertips may fuck once more
Their little labyrinths of lines
Rearranging as they pull away
From one another
Turning me
Into someone I
Am not.

4. ‘there are no poems’

(a tribute to the poetry of Alok Dhanwa)

there are no poems for
the mother who didn’t
have her stomach
sutured after
they extracted her unborn
afraid she would birth
yet another fragile small mouth, filled
with a thousand
sharp-edged questions that
might erupt
like puzzled saplings through the
blood-soaked earth,
quite like the three who came before
her, and now lie rotting
in the same masculine mud.

there are no poems for
her who,
had she lived,
would have whiplashed endless
with her furious tongueless mouth,
her circumcised soul
the size of a curse that
a species cannot endure.

there are no poems about
the slithering fear
they carry coiled inside their
military hearts;
fear with forked tongues,
forked as forceps
that extract any and all
future ‘why’s
that may dare to doubt
the absence of poems in this land.

there are poems though, written
in prisons
about good men in cages
quietly living out
unjust sentences,
as if forbearance were
Man’s greatest virtue,
no matter how many others
beyond those cages –
imprisoned in
skins whose shades start wars –
were made to snag
on battle-tank chains,
torn to abstractions, their
histories littering the gutters outside
those prison walls like the shadows
of untrod snakes.

there are no poems though
about those men who
chose instead to
blow up prison walls.

poems, although much longer,
are wishless before bullets;
a poem may pierce, but cannot kill;
poems can stand silently
like rifles in corners;
like their shadows;
like their cold long iron penises
which spray angry hate into
the women they kill
when their bullets run out;
like the dead wood in their butts
that once throbbed with moss
and arched to greet
the first rain
but have now been polished to a place
where no trace of life can
taint them.

poems can stand silently
but do not wish to.

my poem would like to greet you
the way a furious matchstick
greets a river of oil.

there are no poems for fires
started this way.

but if there happen to be one or two
they will have leapt
into their own fires unwilling
to outlast them.

there are no poems that stand
as shrines to the self-immolated;
words dream of being embers,
not ash.

i carry your poem
in my hand
it was carved here like a road
it was to take us somewhere

i carry your poem
on my shoulders
like her father would have
that little girl
had she been birthed

i carry your poem
around my neck.
my chest is words
read by those who understand my tongue.
i met one who didn’t.
she stared at me with fear.
our skins were not the same shade.
i felt the urge to reach for a knife then
since she would never allow me to
kill her with your poem.

there was a poem i
wrote once that
stood defiant
before an atomic sorrow.

i waited
for one of the two to explode,
hoping to go down with it;
but instead yet
another unsuspecting
geographical boundary somewhere
shivered, and changed shape,
including a new poem on one side,
excluding a familiar one on the other.

there are no poems
for those who cease to belong
when boundaries change
this way.

(first published in The Alipore Post)

Devashish Makhija has written and directed the multiple award winning films ‘Ajji’ (Granny), ‘Bhonsle’, ‘Taandav’, ‘El’ayichi’, ‘Agli Baar’ (And then they came for me), ‘Rahim Murge pe mat ro’ (Don’t cry for Rahim LeCock), ‘Absent’, and ‘Happy’; has had a solo art show ‘Occupying Silence’; written the bestselling children’s books ‘When Ali became Bajrangbali’ and ‘Why Paploo was perplexed’, a Harper-Collins collection of short stories ‘Forgetting’, the novel ‘Oonga’, and the forthcoming book of poems ‘Disengaged’. He is always under construction at

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