It is him; it is not him

I don’t like red, the mushy insides of a watermelon,
Palash, Modar, thread-work on a Gamusa like rivulets
Flowing out of an open wound.
For two decades the portico light illuminated the Ixora bush
Each floret a study in scarlet.
We don’t utter his name at home
You can never reconcile son/ militant/freedom fighter/ killer
Can you?

I see him waiting under the Areca palm
He asks to come home
I carry his name in my heart like a concealed weapon.
He is a corpse under a Hollong tree on red soil
It is him; it is not him.
You can never reconcile son/ militant/freedom fighter/ brother/ killer
Can you?

Palash, Modar: Flowering trees with red flowers.
Gamusa: A white rectangular piece of cloth usually with red motifs. Used as a towel and to honour people during ceremonies. Also exchanged on Bihu as an expression of love.
Areca palm: A common tree found in the northeastern part of India. The Areca nut is relished with betel leaf in many parts of the country.
Hollong: The state tree of Assam. Genus: Dipterocarpus retusus.

Jahnavi Gogoi is a poet who grew up amidst insurgency in Assam and lived to tell the tale. She is a writer of children’s fiction and a mother to an assertive seven-year-old daughter. Her debut book of poetry ‘Things I told myself’ can be found on Amazon. Jahnavi now resides in Canada in the picturesque town of Ajax.