• They Saw No Longer the Battlefield

    Vivek Narayanan

    November 23, 2016


    (After Valmiki's Ramayana: Yuddhakanda, sarga 55)


    And then like the blindness of fury in WAR
    a solid rising column of iron-coloured dirt &
    skin & blood & hair & pollen & chondrite

    buffeted in the ten directions the combatants
    of both (monkeysrakshsasasboth) sides, all
    beings wrapped and tossed in it–

    and they saw no longer the battlefield

    only nebulas of dust, red rust
    or white, whiter than white people or
    the white of silk.  Then nothing.
    Not limb nor cloth nor banner
    Not horse not blade
    nor chariot nor bow could
    be told apart in
    that wretched dreck.

    The sound
    of the roaring ones &
    the attacking ones
    split your ears and yet
      no true forms to
    be apprehended by the eyes.

    Stoked only more delirious with anger:

    monkeys slaughtered their fellow monkeys then
    rakshasas blindly struck down comrade rakshasas

    and night devoured day as
    day tore into night.




    southasian-2© Syed Haider Raza, 'Red Sun and Black Clouds' / LuxArtAsia




    Note: The poem recalls a scene from Valmiki's Ramayana where, in the intense opacity of war, the monkeys and rakshasas end up killing soldiers from their own side.

    Vivek Narayanan's two books of poems are Life and Times of Mr S (2012) and Universal Beach (2006).  He is co-editor of the literary journal Almost Island.

    This poem is part of our unfolding Citizens against War series of literature and art, initiated in the spirit of listening: to our poets, artists, fellow citizens, against war and warmongering.


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