“In the Winter of 2014 We Were Always Taking His Name” by Mihir Vatsa

Mihir Vatsa


with lines and words by Jose Saramago and Robert Browning; for Peshawar, for our gods, and for the rest of us


Because I could reach out to your hands
only when our foreheads were at gunpoint
Because the only light between us split
when there was nothing to wade through
and everything to crawl against
Because I could register your voice
only when we raised
angry placards on the streets

I realise the only thing worthy in the world
to extract love from

is conflict


The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn’t understand us and we don’t understand him.


Many years ago, before the birth of time, one god left our brother at the mercy of a bird because he is the reason today I can see your eyes slanting under a sunbeam. Many years ago, before the birth of time, one lustful god let down his robes in the guise of a husband. Many years ago, perhaps after the birth of time, one god sent the snake in—there should be no doubt here that he sent the snake for he is god         and god knows all         and god knew all         and god is truth

A truth so afraid of its own making it turned supreme.


In the neighbourhood
the boy wakes up to expectations

he kneels, he remembers his god
he arranges his textbooks, he verifies the Pythagoras theorem

the square of the hypotenuse is no longer the sum of the squares of the sides

he, aware of the spelling of love
he, aware of the colour on his blazer
he, aware that six hours later
there will be an end to all prepositions
when he would cycle off to home—



My dear friend

The plateau is as cold as your affection

I am thinking of reaping a harvest of gloom
I am thinking of burying the scriptures
I am thinking of dying but it’s not that easy—I don’t want to go to hell


I am counting on you to finish the job for me
I am counting on you to hoist your saffron | green | red | black | white | blue flag in front of my face till I climb the mast then trip between the threads

I am counting on you to furnish a report afterwards
Maybe a biography


The question is not which god wants more blood
The question is which doesn’t

I am searching my database for a name

404 Not Found


So let me trace instead the crevices on your skin under moonlight

You, so still beside the shrine
You, so lovely in your devotion
You, the sex appeal of death


But you, my sergeants of justice
how many fingers will you break
how many theorems will you twist
how many colours will you spit
till you realise that even today
for all the ways you make love to a person
for all your great right causes
for all your concerned rebellion
the most supreme and honorable your
god has not said a word

Poets Respond
December 21, 2014

[download audio]


Mihir Vatsa: “On December 16 the Pakistan Taliban held an entire school hostage and killed 132 students along with 9 staff members. I wish I could say how deeply it affects me without sounding like a stray PR statement, but I cannot. At times like this, you don’t want to explain anymore.” (website)

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