Tuesday, November 29, 2016


An American soldier
        in Vietnam, still "unravelling"
        after all these years, is told by
        his wife that the branches they
        both see are "only branches",
        not sky crossed in barbed-wire.

An English soldier
        in France, still paces behind the
        wagons of his dreams, still sees
        those "white eyes writhing". When
        he dies, the citation says he "inflicted
        considerable losses to the enemy".        

An Israeli soldier
        in Palestine, refuses to fly, says
        the word - occupation - finds a
        hole in the skies he knew too well.
        Others in the unit whet conscience
        on fear, call him names, disappear.
An Indian soldier
        in Kashmir, uncovers his wound.
        One, in the Rashtriya Rifles unit
        runs "amok in the wee hours, killing
        five soldiers before killing himself".
        Officers claim "inadequate leave".

(thanks to Bruce Weigl and Wilfred Owen)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

On seeing Pakeezah, again, after twenty years

The evening, the ruins,
even the further shadows of trees,
still wear the jewel of Nargis's abandonment.

Each night, they pay
the unending debt
of her refusal.

Her sister, sketching
the sky with Nargis's last days,
still says - how much you must have cried,
how much,

before your resolve was
whetted against that last night of grief,

before you wrote
that letter,

before you left
the moonstone of your loneness
for Sahib Jan to inherit.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

तानाशाही में क्या होता है?

    लोग अजीब-अजीब चीज़ों के आदी हो जाते हैं,

    स्वाभाविक लगने लगता है
    फरमान का लहज़ा और
    आसमान का काला रंग, 

    सामने खड़ी दहशत को
    ना देखने के कई साधन ईजाद किये जाते हैं,

    कीचड़ में भटकाऊ फूल,
    कई उलटे-सीधे रूल,
    और आखों में धूल,

    सरकार के घर-बिस्तर तक में
    आ धमकने से लोग अभ्यस्त कराये जाते हैं,

    देश-प्रेम की दुहाई दी जाती है,
    देश को लोग अपनी जेब की अठन्नी में पाते हैं,

    सवाल करना चाहते हैं
    पर कतरातें हैं।

तो तानाशाही ख़तम कैसे होती है?

    जब लोग इस सब से पक जाते हैं।

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Morning, 9th November 2016, in a New York hotel-room

Around 2am,
she was 209, he was 244.
I go to sleep.

Around 4:30,
almost in the middle of some dream,
I pick up my phone, see the results,
and go back to sleep.

Six in the morning,
waking up early for a bus,
the first thing I do is see my Grindr.
The bus is only at 8. It’s still two hours.
Someone 870 feet away, 45, “looking for fun right now”
had offered some unsolicited advice:
“You better pack your bags,
He gonna build a wall.”

Around 9:30, in the Greyhound bound for Atlantic City,
the woman next to me kept on calling her new President
a psycho. I thought to myself, why abuse psychos.

Later that day, my mother
called from Lucknow and said
“Achha ab ye Trump president ban gaya hai
isse tumhein toh koi farak nahin padega na?”
So now that this Trump is president,
this won’t make any difference to you, right?

I didn’t know where to begin
so I just repeated that I will be back by the 1st of December,
it’s just three weeks.
She said “achha bas safe ho kar chalna,”
Okay, but just be safe till then.

Where does one begin
when the hate rises – “at an Applebee's, they hit
her just because she was wearing a Hijab and speaking
in Swahili" – where does one begin when
the object of your fear is the colour of your skin –
I know that a friend would say “surely, you’re over-reacting,”
but what do I know, how can anyone measure the menace
distributed in the evenings – “they threw a cup of piss on him
as he slept on the pavement, he was a Mexican immigrant”

where do you begin, when you think twice about
an evening-out alone in a new country, when you
look about for folks like you, because
something’s in the air here
and it’s sinking in.

(thanks to Jorge Ramos)