Keepers Of Faith
"Mother, you remember perfectly that God is a
-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.
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
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
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.