Exile – 2


Dissident Voice’s Sunday Poetry section. DV is a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice.

 

Broken Lives 

In the stillness of the old house
my fingers leave traces on the
dust-shrouded sepias of broken lives—
their names only half remembered—
parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins—
in the courtyard of our ancestral home,
or surrounded by vast areas of snow
that now weigh heavy on my heart
as I close my eyes and find a dream
in which the mist of old memories
veils the far distant hills and
bare trees that stand transfixed
like bleached skeletons,
their summer songs exorcised
the grey of sorrow clouds the sky
I recall a bright wood fire blazing
fragrant with the scent of my homeland
making figures like themselves
to celebrate the coming of new snow
but that was before innocence was lost
and the snow turned red with blood
as their sculptures gradually died
and vanished from sight forever
in the years since I last saw snow fall
winter has become a grisly metaphor
for the loss of life and hope
and things that will never be again

Exile


the sky that final evening
was smeared red with death,
and a tangible odour of fear
hung oppressively in the air,
by the half-shut windows,
blood had petrified in my veins

mother moved about the rooms
unsettling the unnatural quiet,
the few things we still owned
were in neat bundles beside the door,
slowly, on his artistic limbs,
baba mapped the contours of home

he absorbed the fading colours,
let memories settle on his skin
as fragile as a fine layer of dust,
in a corner grandma sat quietly
huddled with her kangri,
her gaze lost in a different world

the children had long forgotten time
and surrendered to exhaustion,
from my place near the window,
I envied their restive slumber
as I watched our topographies of pain,
trapped between somewhere and nowhere

the eerie wail of an ambulance sounded,
gunshots echoed through the air,
choked on dust and soot and pain
we waited, and watched the day reduce
to ash, then we passed into the night,
quietly, towards an unfamiliar sky

First published in Dissident Voice’s Sunday Poetry section. DV is a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice.

Broken Lives – Two Poems


I’ve been in a perpetual state of (un)belonging since childhood. It is difficult to imagine the pain of loss, the angst, the outrage and the constant longing of those who are yearning to return to their homeland. People who are displaced/ exiled for any number of reasons. Personally, the feeling of homelessness is the closest that can come to what a person may feel when he/she is forced out of his/her birth country. This sense of alienation, of despair seems similar to me. It is one thing to live in a house and another to have a home, to feel at home.

I feed on my dreams just as they do, longing for a home that is perhaps not even there, searching for my identity, my purpose in this world. For me exile is not just a geographical concept it is also an emotional, mental state of being. I will do a post on this very soon.

I decided to do poems about exile, displacement and my own desire for a home. The first two poems were published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday and the next two found a ‘home’ in this wonderful newsletter Dissident Voice’s Sunday Poetry section. DV is a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice. I am grateful to the Senior DV editor Angie Tibbs for helping me reach out by my poetry.

You can read both the poems by clicking the links below.

BROKEN LIVES 

EXILE  

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Two Poems Of Exile


first published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday 

 

 

1

years ago I bid adieu to my homeland
the colours of autumn that stained my heart
have long faded and the rivers that ran
deep in the lines of my hands have dried

the place of my birth is a forgotten fragrance
a half-remembered dream whose ending is lost
but sometimes my sleepless nights are sheened
by the light of the winter moon I watched

leaning from the window of the bus I took,
the cool air awakens distant memories
it takes me back to a village
nestled between the mountains and streams

I run shoeless across the fields of saffron
chasing an invisible kite. the fiery chinar
warms my chilled heart, the bare silhouettes
of walnut trees spread their arms in welcome

on the steps of home you await my return
but as I reach out to you, you fade away
like soft summer light when evening comes
it’s been years since I last saw your face

maybe someday when you see the moon
reflecting in the quiet waters of the lake
and hear a boatman’s song echo in the breeze
I will be home never to leave you again

2

the spice shop perfumes the morning
in the streets of the old-city bazaar
as people hurry to private errands
a bangle seller displays his wares
promising good fortune to those who buy
at the tea stalls, people share stories
over a cup of hot masala chai
barefoot children chase imaginary kites
oblivious to the bustling crowd
a cow sits contemplating life
beset by flies it blinks its soulful eyes
women bargain with the grocers
for rice and lentils to feed hungry mouths
amidst traffic chaos people jostle for space
the late afternoon sun drifts towards evening
strings of lights twinkle like fireflies
laughter and singing echo everywhere
flavours and aromas fill the night
and the city – like a new bride
sashays dreamlike until the sun rises again.