(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.
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.
© 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.