THE MIRROR I WON’T
The valley stretches before me like an echo of God
Who amongst us can remain unwounded by this amaranth
strophe of green? The first boy’s limbs are tilted lightwood, his
hair is unlit newsprint. His heart was quartered as if a golden apple
We eventually forget him. There are too many bodies to remember
The precise silhouette tailored to the dimming of a blotted lake
All the houses we omit still remain standing like stubborn epitaphs
This is the ethnography of missing teeth. This is a library of stolen fingernails.
This is a lap full of broken birds. This is the holy asymmetry
Of choked up chinars crimsoning tin roofs shrouded in a heresy of smoke
Arms of darkened copper dig through a time-coarsened vernacular
Soon, soft concavities belch and shudder with the gist of a bloody debris
Their mothers will disappear behind veils, low clouds silenced by a murder of crows
Stilled feathers of black henna filigreeing the reddest horizon within their hands
Their eyes will finally be emptied of prayers and ghosts
Their bodies frozen into a snow-limned map of a graveyard
All the men lined up in a tessellation of dormant volcanoes.
My sky wore the skin of knifed fish. What doesn’t kill you
Deafens you with the same questions on a daily basis—
What is your father’s name? What is your job? Why don’t you
Have one? Are you carrying a weapon? Are you a terrorist?
I am saw-bladed by a mule’s rhetoric. My firstborn was named
Veiled Arson. When they began to hand flamethrowers to those
who had dreams essenced from clay, I heard the horse chestnut flog
our attic’s skull with the sadism of a bulletproof soldier. I know my love
for this land is at best a myth, at worst—a slur. Even then, this mud is
what spat me out like a common flea. This riverbed galvanized the torque
in my wings. In a language I am thawed from, a single word stands for both—
tongue and language. Zubaan. Ya’allah, I am already fossil, a yellowing flank
planted in a desert of mayflies. All around me raindrops skip like drugged
white spiders loosened from a heavenly cupboard. God occupies me as
a shapeless hunger. A million forgeries to articulate the simple loss of each limb.
The elm of my spine was sedated, abridged to obedience. I can tuck the pin
Of a grenade between my teeth like a scared animal picking its blind infant.
I am begging to the ones whose bootprints lick my back like tire tracks in
a graying snow— Tell me when did the weight strapped
to my chest decide to spell itself as a bomb instead of a child?
July 19, 2016
Scherezade Siobhan: “These poems about the recent deaths in Kashmir—a divided territory in the Indian North that has been experiencing unmitigated violence, military rule, while its peoples try to survive through severe displacements. The factionalism gains momentum and so does government effort to clamp down. Peaceful dialogue turns into a pipe dream. We watch as people become homeless, torn away from their lineage and their land. Last week dozens of people died in a large scale protest and the agony of it continues to kindle the whole valley. I write this for an unnamed Kashmiri friend who cries and recites Agha Shahid Ali over the phone as his beautiful lake turns bloodier than any sunset I have known through my life.” (website)