“I Fall Asleep Reading a Poem by Akhil Katyal” by Hamraaz Raaz

Hamraaz Raaz


for Natasha Narwal

I don’t smoke, but somehow I’m smoking
on a cramped South Delhi terrace;
I’m looking down at a wide, brown field
of dry grass and scattered trash.
Beyond are trees and more trees,
and gathered in upper branches,
a murder of angry crows
is scolding a circling kite.
Beyond that are skyscrapers—
or maybe that’s just an illusion,
and there is Natasha Narwal,
sipping tea at a roadside dhaba.
I want to go down and ask her
about the food in Tihar Jail,
I want to go down and tell her
how much we all have missed her.

from Poets Respond
October 25, 2020


Hamraaz Raaz: “Every day we wake to more news about political prisoners in India. After the Delhi riots, which happened on the day of Trump’s visit to this city, the government started blaming Muslims and others who protested anti-Muslim laws, for what was an Anti-Muslim pogrom. It feels like 1984. Students, activists, intellectuals and ordinary people have been jailed for months under terrorism charges. The woman in the story here, Devangana Kalita, is a young feminist leader and founder of Pinjra Tod (‘break the cage’). She and Natasha Narwal have been in jail since May, blamed for the riots. Natasha is mentioned in the story; the poem is about her because that is how dreams work. Both are still in jail. Akhil Katyal is an important Delhi poet and a friend of Natasha Narwal. I write under a pen name because to do otherwise would be dangerous.” (web)

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