Poems for Kashmir
Bird and fruits, 12th c. / Khanhhoathuynga
Such a pretty map we have
Some want to change that
But it's ok, it's all under control now
We have foiled the attempts at redrawing
Some collateral happened.
They get really dark lead from somewhere, bonded too
2B or not, who knows?
The pencil marks have to be rubbed off hard
Here and there, the paper tore a bit.
But it's ok, it's all under control now.
No bargaining please
At Dilli Haat
I know it's no use bargaining at the Kashmir stall;
They have their prices fixed.
What a thing it is to feel so sure
About what you deserve,
About what you want,
And what you surely don't—
What an inconvenience
There is a due process to someone's leaving.
There is a farewell,
An expectation of return,
Or a recognition of the finality of going.
Even in a farce, you see,
Or any kind of act, for that matter,
Exits for characters are marked as clearly
As their entry.
But when they are lifted out of scenes by aerialists,
Transported through false ceilings
And kept behind cage doors noone knows about,
The act, the actors and the audience are frozen
Ma Yuan, Water study, 12th c. / Pinterest
Fu Baoshi, 'Electric Power Lines', 1954 / Asian Artists
Zhang Daqian, 'The Three Peaks of Mount Hua', detail, 20th c. / Christie's
I smear my lips with red chilli pepper,
Salivate between my short breaths.
Biting down hard, the searing taste reassures me
Of iron within my dream of hot pursuit.
I wake up in a sweat,
Pour my head into a bucket of water.
Clamp down my nose and mouth
Counting one, two, three . . .
I stand upon my head,
Feel the welts on my soles.
Weals course through my brain and erupt;
A crown of thorns pierces my temples.
My thighs give way under the weight of bullets,
My first realization of how many layers pain can exist in.
But numbing as it is to try to live in your body,
To live what it lived, lives . . .
I wonder whether I have it in me
To some day see your body as only yours
And mine as mine alone.
But I don't want that,
I don't want to be left alone.
It's pathetic, I know, these imaginings;
A sick mind makes the real absurd.
But it scares me no end
To imagine that other numbness, the unfeeling dumbness . . .
How can I not follow you,
How can we not be in this
How desperate we are to laugh—
To chime with a can of laughter—
Exhaling nervous relief,
Reassured that it wasn't a can of worms.
A concert is over.
See you at the next one.
In the meantime
We shall continue to create and assimilate
The sweetest music ever—
A comment on the Zubin Mehta concert in Kashmir in particular and, in general, on the fragile camouflage we put over our simultaneous guilt and apathy in the face of suffering around us.
Ukita Ikkei, 'Tale of a strange marriage', 19th c. / Metropolitan Museum
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