Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Up close, from far away

Sometimes, one is assailed by a hopelessness, a frustration born out of the fact that one cannot do anything about the way one feels. You open the newspaper and are bombarded by a dozen stories that speak to the horrible things that go on in this world. Anger, disgust, sadness...and despair. Of course, there are also the many stories of hope and survival that cause one to smile. So we retreat from the assault of the news into a space that is our own, cushion ourselves in conversations about this and that, surround ourselves by the tedium of everyday decision making. Which outfit to wear? What to make for breakfast? Should I do the groceries today or tomorrow? And what about that meeting I need to prepare for? Should I call the electrician to come fix the stairwell light that's been out for weeks?

In the middle of all this, when (and if) we allow the consciousness of the world to intrude, we run the risk of being blanketed again by that old feeling of "what can I do about it but feel?"

So, you asked for it. The two poems that have found their way into the Human Rights Poetry Anthology, nestled among 148 others that are beautiful in their expressions of hope amidst despair, concern amidst apathy.


Terrorism is a way of life

like my morning toast

healthy whole wheat

masking the grinding of bones

salted with the perspiration

from the brows and arms and legs

of suicide prone farmers;

or the orange juice

imported from reconstituted republics

into colonies of consumption

their choreographed dreams exploited

by real estate developers

selling bits and gigs and terrabytes

of mindspace.

Our everydays, our lives,

our lifestyles

cannot do without the products

of habitual violence.

It spices my rudeness

as I disregard

the helplessly signaling pedestrian

in my workday haste.

It spikes the ratings graphs

of television shows

that hold us hostage,

primed as we are

for their distant drama.



The edges of the textbook map

bleed quietly into my studious mind

like ink on blotting paper,

while scribes scratch out

the noisy newsprint

that a hurrying-away boy tosses onto my balcony

every morning.

Social studies lessons

taught without emotion

full of numbing dates and

unpronounceable names

blind our children

to the devouring

reasons of state.

Young men in the northern hills

imagining insurgency;

desperately demonstrating mothers

echoing those from other, no-less-dirty, wars,

trying to reclaim

the lost youth of their generations;

and the elders left to mourn

behind veils and worn-out blankets,

their stories eclipsed

by the questions and answers

in civil services examinations

that push all of life

into a dull green paper folder

to be filed away

in the twisting corridors

of power.

 Please do tell me what (if) they make you feel.