Dear Leader

Dear Leader,

Do you see, Dear Leader?
They look to you
with their eyes of thirst and hunger and absence of life.
They look to you because you promised them
the sky and stars and all the mendacious magic in your kingdom that
once had no king,
When all they wish for is a bit of the earth,
to live in, to lie on
while the trees of your kingdom
offer shelter and succour.
It’s not a fair trade.
They ask for a future.
You want your kingdom.

*

Do you hear, Dear Leader?
They do not ask of their fill.
They ask for leftovers,
the waste from your bowl,
when you will it.
They will believe you, in your greatness that you still proclaim
As you speak to them, offer them a breath at a time as if you
Own all the air they breathe.
They will light a lamp for you
With the last drop of their lives.
They will celebrate you by turning their empty utensils into
temple bells.
Bells in your temple.
They have subsumed their many gods into yours –
Even unto you, their king.
Would you give them what they ask, even a morsel of your false hope?
Kings are sometimes known to be generous.
But it could be that you, omnipresent, omniscient,
are made deaf by applause you seek –
For simply waking.
It’s a king’s ransom.

*

What is the colour of your blood, Dear Leader?
Royal gold? Quicksilver? Purple? Or purest saffron
from the valley of imagined flowers
and imagined people?
It cannot be red, like theirs,
flowing freely from fear.
It cannot.
Because you are now immortal.
Your legends are not of their legends.
Your every breath (your courtiers may tell you)
is a gift of life for them.
Your every word (say your courtiers who adulate you)
is the resonance of the universe.
Your every gesture (say your courtiers who celebrate you)
is a wash of sharp cleansing daylight in this time of blight.
Your blood cannot be their blood.
Like immortals, your blood
Must be ice.
White when frozen.
And, like ice,
Terrified of the thaw.

*

Do you know of anger, Dear Leader?
Not your anger.
Their anger.
Indeed you do:
You became a prince among princes profiting from their anger,
And then, a king.
A god.
An immortal.
But anger, like heat, diminishes with height and distance.
You could ask your courtiers.
There must be one who can look you in the eye –
Even immortals need a confidant.
Perhaps this mortal who lives in your encroaching shadow
may tell you:
A time comes for all kings,
For all kingdoms,
To return to the time before kings, before kingdoms.
History speaks of it as rise and fall.
But history is sometimes told incomplete, as history has
an appetite for illusion.
The fallen are swept away by the rise of the fallen.
When spring comes you may sense it,
This beautiful magic without illusion.

*

Do you know of fear, Dear Leader?
Ask the mortals.
Ask.

***

Sudeep Chakravarti is the author of several of works non-fiction encompassing history, ethnography, culture, and conflict and conflict resolution; and several novels and short stories. His latest book is Plassey: The Battle that Changed the Course of Indian History.