Mercy and Other Poems

1 - Mercy

Like a ribbed Sun
My days are grey strips
Shuffling through swaths
Of your glowing kindness
And then...

they dissolve

    Into the dark of the night.

2 - Heal

If you were to peel
The layers of reason
You'd see a gash,
The truth;
    Reach there. Heal.

3 - A Mid-Poem Riff

Sometimes just a word
Is a commune of meaning,
Its utterance
The entire journey
From where you stand
To the mid-poem me.

4 - The Taste Of Love

Strip by strip
I've skinned this face
My raw story
Hangs now as flesh
Kiss me, this is how
Our past tastes

5 - Step Across

Pause. Reflect.
Raise your gaze
Neither to her hijab
Nor to her open hair
But to where stands.
The oppressor.
And then…

Step across
To where there is justice,
To a day better than this.

6 - Memory: An Act Of Forgetting

Right now, just like that
I let a memory of you
Slip through my sleeve
And drop to the floor.
It had snivelled,
Snivelled long,
Long up my sleeve.
Really? How did you do it? This is what Muhammad
Made them do
When they sneaked
Idols up their sleeves
When arraying for prayers.
Fools! Did they really believe
They could contain Omniscience,
The Lord, the Almighty Himself?

And then in any conversation, anywhere
A thought of you descends in my eyes
Suddenly I am looking yet not looking
listening yet not listening
talking yet not talking
I get visions of Mahadev
Slaking evil, turning blue
The word in its grandeur
Unfurls on me – ‘imbue’
I know now exactly what it means
To not lose myself and still be you.

Oh, that was easy!
I thought memories
Were like henna
That taint your heart
In a Ghalib couplet.
As hard to remove
As nails from toes.

(Erasing the thought of your henna-dyed fingers from my heart
Became an act of tearing the nails away from my flesh)

Then in another space
My fellow actor and I rehearse.
He screams the script
“A vice… grabbing…” my feet?
A memory of a memory once told
Somersaults, tears through, holds forth
Of a man walking through winter fields
Finds a snake entwined around his legs.
He catches the beast by its head,
Frees himself, and continues walking
As if nothing had appeared.
Ah, crap! Memories -
They’re just other people’s bags
You’re forced to carry -
Too happy to lose,
Too happy to never have possessed.

Right now, just like that
I let a memory of you
Slip through my sleeve
It had snivelled,
Snivelled long,
Long enough to be putrid
Long enough for me to
Chain it any further
To our ever-present past.
Like a Baul
I too must find an unfettered God.
Milon hobe kote dino... Amar Moner Manusher shonge...

Danish Husain Danish Husain is an actor, storyteller, poet, and a theatre director. He was instrumental in reviving the lost art form of Urdu storytelling, Dastangoi, which he later extended into a multilingual storytelling platform called Qissebaazi. He lives in Mumbai and runs his theatre company The Hoshruba Repertory.