Massacre on the island and Other Poems

By Ashwani Kumar


Once upon a time
Refugees from faraway land arrived on the island
searching for bounties of their home land.
They were famished but
refused to eat animals, plants, shrubs and flowers.
Even in the moments of extreme hunger
they refused to eat each other.
For seven days- seven nights
they prayed under the odorous sun in the sky
and hurled stones at each other.

My blood vessels rushed to the surface of beach in excitement –
Violence is like the innocent love of malicious God
flaming and feeding
anxieties and animosities in our erotic and spiritual veins.
One day, they sighted Robinson Crusoe-
young, handsome naked suicide bomber
panting, shaking with anonymous desires of self-killing.
You will say
He was expert in the science of elegies but
I know he was infatuated with making wooden coffins.

Slowly, evil power overpowered all the settlers –
they swallowed knives and daggers
filling oval appetites with artefacts of modern art.
One by one, all men, women and children
turned a pile of red- stained effigies –
half-burnt memory of massacres on the island


It was circa 1984…
I was standing in the balcony,
gushing over tall, talcum powdered, teen-aged school girls,
bantering on provincial socialist jokes
and worrying about late-night movie tickets.
I saw a Kite dodging the force of gravity,
swirling in the winds,
escaping the lure of the clouds…
After days of mayhem,
the Kite kissed the forehead of the coffee-coloured sky,
bid goodbye to ozone-less cold ocean of desires,
and returned handcuffed to the olive-green Parliament Street.
All the while, I remember…
The five of us had inhaled
so much smoke from the burning rubber tires,
and exchanged our ambitions so madly,
We had lost count of naked bodies and silent hills…
It is circa unknown…
I am busy collecting freebies,
roasting long red potatoes on my barbecue,
and dusting files of witnesses in the archives in a fit of amnesia!
( Written as an eye-witness account of Delhi anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. From Ashwani Kumar’s Collection ‘My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter’.)


“With extra words in a short poem,
you can buy a butter knife and a packet of cigarettes, and live among sedentary species happily,”
said Prof. Gooseberry, a palaeontologist turned poet to his students in his Fossil office room.

Among his students were mostly black, white, yellow, brown, mixed-race Hindu humanoids in skull caps.
But there were also a hedgehog, a tortoise, and a water buffalo from the closed abattoir.

Evolutionists may not believe,
poets are the only language animals with omnivorous teeth, more scavenger than hunter. In the cold desert of darkness,
they kill vegan dictators with a neck bite.

At the end of the long lecture on his recent paper,
‘Predatory Transition from Ape to Monkey God’, the professor turned to me and said,
“You seem distracted.
“Want to know how Neanderthal mobs in Bermuda khaki shorts, came on Hero cycles and
lynched sage sparrows in Dadri in the Northern Hemisphere?”

“With a hand-axe, or a club, or a garrotte?” I asked.
“No, you useless Homo Habilis,” said he. “Tell me,” I insisted. “Instinct,” he averred, “How beautiful” . . . I wowed ad nauseam!
( From Ashwani Kumar’s Banaras and the Other, Poetrywala)

Ashwani Kumar is a poet, author and academic in Mumbai. Widely published, anthologised and translated into several Indian languages, his poetry volumes include ‘My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter’, ‘Banaras and the Other’ and ‘Architecture of Alphabets’. Recently, he has published “Rivers Going Home” (Red River)- a major anthology of Indian poetry. He is author of the acclaimed non-fiction ‘Community Warriors” (Anthem Press), and one of the chief editors of ‘Global Civil Society’ at London School of Economics. He is also cofounder of Indian Novels Collective, an initiative to popularise translation of classic novels of Indian languages. In leisure, he writes a book column in the Financial Express.

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