The Sparrows Have Left and other poems by Adarsh Sathyan


Art by Mark Powell

Keepers Of Faith


"Mother, you remember perfectly that God is a

thief."

-Agha Shahid Ali


We shall meet again, beyond the last frontier

By the lake where distanced lovers of lore meet.

The monsoon's cursed tears shall crash into sparkles

While we talk about Doomsday and distance

As though mere words can will it out of existence.

The vultures flying above us in circles—

Keepers of faith, wretched figures longing to eat

And lick the flesh off our bones—prized souvenir


Of their hunt to keep the immiscible at bay—

Shall fly off into the distance. Hear that? The bells

Have rung. The hour draws nigh. At dawn, I'll listen

To your voice, not through memory's desolation

But in person. And even as annihilation

Draws near I'll hold on to it past the glisten

Of daybreak. Quick, the ruination of farewells

Welcome us. The vultures will return to stay.


But we shall meet again, in a far off place where

I—the Sinner, the Kafir, the Untouchable—

Shall no longer have to find refuge from belief.

Was I really brought forth in iniquity?

Did my mother conceive me in sin? Is dignity

Such a luxury that we’re denied it even in grief?

My ancestors—their pain trapped in a syllable—

Never went to the temple and left their footwear


Outside. They stayed outside themselves. The vultures

Are eyeing us now. Somewhere a minaret's Call

To Prayer breaks the silence. O' muezzin, did God's

Voice break when he asked the father for Ishmael's

Sacrifice? Such obedience. Can this infidel’s

Heart ever know this? Even winter yields against all odds.

The moon settles on the graveyard near you. I’ll crawl

Past this amethyst prison into the ruptures


Of your dreams and we'll carve ourselves a country

Where I would not be the cause of your shame.

Or you, mine. Wear the veil with pride tonight.

Even Khalid keeps his head high in prison. Quick.

The vultures have arrived. Pray for me in Arabic—

As Shahid says— the language of loss. Even the night

Weeps, for all that’s left is a farewell to your name.

But for now I'll keep you with me in my poetry.


Witness


I've heard rumours of spring's return.

They say she was incarcerated

By the patriarchs of democracy.

The winds whisper, like creaking doors,

About a desolation, they've disguised

As peace. Even death's bureaucracy

Is no match for their undeclared intent.


They've tried to silence poets, writers,

Journalists. But the dead still tell tales

Of their ruin. Listen and you'll hear them.

The stones have been cleaned of blood.

The evidences destroyed. Gods have been

Rationed. They're being sold in the streets

Alongside faith, freedom and dead flowers.


They've strangled words till their meanings

Hung from the edges— lifeless, like a lover

From a noose. They've renamed cities hoping

To rewrite history. But they forget our memories

Still survive— stubborn, unyielding. Maybe

spring hasn't arrived yet because she lost

her way in search of the old cities.


They pass judgements on poems now.

Some are deemed traitors. Others,

sentenced to death. One was burned

A few nights ago. I asked the poet if he

mourns the death of his poem. He said

poems don't die. They haunt the sleep of

those who sit on thrones and sell dreams.


The Sparrows Have Left


Last night,

I thought I'll write

A love poem for you.

But then I remembered you

And how you told me that,

One fine morning,


The sparrows whispered to you,


About Faiz's refrains

And Darwish's exile.

And how they cried to you

In Mandelstam's verses,

And Lorca's poems.


So I put down my pen

And closed my journal.

I opened the window

To listen to the sparrows sing.


But the sparrows,

They have left this country.

It's been outlawed to sing

About freedom and justice,

And hope and revolution.


You can only pray a certain way

And dress how they deem fit.

Humour can get you jailed.

The police investigate wit.

And history is a felony.


So I get back to writing

A love poem for you,

Wherein, the moon

recites ghazals

And the rain burns

The sun's skin.


But it doesn't feel right

For what use is my poem

If the sparrows can't sing it.


 

Adarsh Sathyan is an engineering student by day and a recluse poet by night.

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