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
    Sixtynining
    Flatlining
    Arching
    Twisting
    Twining
    Fisting
    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
    tumour,
    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
    ‘why’s
    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 www.makhijafilm.com

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