My baba often told me not to write a political poem
My baba often told me
not to write a political poem,
Or another sadistic blood-drenched poetry about the dead.
He told me
to not write about Aseem Sahab that lived next door in Prince Anwar Shah Road,
the one whose knees remained sunk in dusty prayer mats,
the one deprived of praying spots,
The one who spoke in Dakhini
so it alienated him from the rest,
and could easily be lynched in broad daylight.
To not write about the times when fascism followed men with a specific size of beards,
and head creases molded in every hurf of Urdu,
every zabar or zer that spelt of fear,
or the women with head covered scarves,
and tongues tied with nukhta
being sold online.
He often told me to not write
about the dead ones as they have the ritual of dragging people to the grave
with their kafans,
to keep a piece of land reserved
for anyone who dares tell their story, take their name.
You see, the corpses come with memory, they remember it.
So I wrote a Ghazal for the land.
A lyrical post-partition love
I wrote about
my dead lover instead.
The one that crumbles and coils up on my side of the bed.
Listens to mixtape and cassettes.
Sometimes buys me Lillies from the underground flower market at night.
I also wrote about the girl,
the one buried in my poem
the one with her teeth sunk deep in rugged politics,
and all the attempts at equality biting the dust,
soon whose caste became her casket
and her body, a burnt funeral ground
where she was made to stand but refused to mourn.
Baba often said that politics is cheap but being political is expensive
So he told me to write about beauty,
and not about the increasing crime incidents or the rising hate slogans, speeches,
For we are mere numbers on death statistic charts, in newspapers
Our breaths mere smoke,
Crippling fine lines in the face of fascism
they so wish to erase but can’t.
So I wrote about that girl’s hair, the size of her waist instead.
Then dropped Lillies on her grave,
spread petals on fine mud,
and brought some home.
And then buried myself in taxidermy lessons,
trying to excel in preserving all things dead.
Not knowing that ignorance isn’t a quintessential Lilly,
it’s a match stick.
It doesn’t grace the dead,
it consumes the living.
That the flames of fascism
are a steady rise,
and to the naked eyes; hardly visible,
until it burns down every brick of
your own house.
Until one day,
Finally one day,
political misery knocked on my own door,
Sneaking through the window bars
at 3 am asking about my ancestor’s blood;
hands thumping their chest, bellies bigger than our bodies.
My fingers moulding to prayers,
my prayers turning to fist.
I know that there was a deep cut on my father’s wrist
before he went missing,
now his autopsy reports have
dissected his bones, his skin,
developed sharp canines and tongue,
and denies any death
There’s blood on its wrist,
hands, teeth that
the image of my father drowning.
I have realised that the one in uniforms
didn’t have to keep the flashlights on
even after the night ended.
I realised poets were right
when they took a pen in their hand,
Spilled blood through boiling ink and, said,
“The more you put blood into the soil,
the more it develops a taste for it”
An apology to my poem
You see I did everything, carried stuff in one hand so I can hold yours with another, cupped your face between my palms, ruffled your hair with my fingers, sung you songs who’s lyrics I forgot midway added whiskey into your glass while you smiled, drank it in a single breath, and asked me to be less volatile, and I very hopelessly listen knowing well that your mouth tasted of someone else’s So I diluted your drink with chunks of ice, and still, let your lips rest on mine. And every time you knocked at my door, I bent my spine to make room for love Parted the curtains, changed the cushions Made walls four feet tall Took all efforts to make love comfortable And meanwhile, you sat at that side chair with a smirk on your face, hardly folding your tongue to speak a soft word if any. You tell me how I loved you less than your last girlfriend, how her hands were softer like the tender fabric that is loved and taken care of unlike the coarse ones that turn fossil fuels over time and I realise in this version of your story, I am a piece of cloth, a broken kerosene lamp and you are the crooked customer who is now enjoying the warmth. You see If I loved you less, I would have written your name in every sentence, talked more about the bridge of your nose, the way your lashes touch your brows but I wrap all my love and keep it within me because when you love someone so much you somehow learn to spell intimacy in a better way, you let all this love blossom within you and let no one smell its scent, while it melts inside your chest tickles your ribs, And float, but I didn’t write anything about this, I would never write about all this because this is an explanation I do not owe. To no-one. Rather I buried all this hate, hurt and pain In my journal poetry While it endlessly cried, bled, and begged for help And Instead of her, I rather took our love and signed up for a 6-week counselling session while you spilled excuses like confetti, unwilling to take the appointment at the doctor’s clinic I realised that all this while you have been spelling love, affection all wrong, and this time it’s me who is unwilling to correct the grammar. You see this time I won’t apologise for these rough hands or bad legs This time I won’t apologise for my raw and bare existence, I would rather burn all this love down, And cut all strings attached. This time I tell you this time I will rather apologise to my poem.
Sehar is a poet, student and reader. Based in Kolkata, India, she writes as she finds poetry the perfect medium to express herself, view the world through a different lens and make better sense of it.