Five poems on Survival and Extermination

extermination
Picture by Mostafa Ahangarha

Through poetry Inshah Malik attempts to live/breathe things that otherwise only feature as death or a manifest other in the normative political order. She further deals with her impassioned engagement with poetry in the On Becoming a Poet

 

My Murderer and I

The murderer never loses morality

Never risk a thought

Pitched on the terrain of war

Thoughts are ammunition

Okay!

We can discuss if the murder actually happened

But never doubt the morality of my murderer


He gently caressed my body

And cradled it, like a rose

In the trembling hand of a lover!

Unsure of a new bud’s bloom

He thought, death would be a gift

When he judged my draped body

Based on its capital value!


And if I were dead before he killed me

I would have received his gift

With an equal and reciprocal gratitude

But, I saw him running a sharp edged sword

Over frail blades of thought


And I saw him decorate my shroud

With paisleys of wisdom

And then place posies of justification

At the edge of my grave

 

He had plenty people at the carouse

Who he summoned to report on his grandeur

And my body

Of black, brown, white and wet mud

Was lowered

Into the earth

I would have left without a sigh!

But he evoked me

In his passionate urge to efface the dignity

Of my death


He evoked and erased me at will

As if a theatre for posterity

My story was now a lesson

In the children’s story book

My face mimicked that of defeat and disgrace

He would have had obedience

And order that he craved for

It would have been just his word

His genius, His state, His god

Had I not hollowed him from within

Had I not leaped out from his insides

And clung to my dignified death

He would not have had to fight his own self

 

I wish I had told him

There is no way to fight

Voices made of our own skin and bone

In this war of a man against his reflection

World is taken hostage

But my murderer won’t outlive me

With me he too must have died

And reflections die in darkness

Without his reflection

He will know he is gone since long!

 

Old Wound

Old wound is like stargazing

You don’t blink your eyes

When you look at it

Tears roll down

As a reminder of impossible pain

And when distance becomes light years

Stars fall dead one after another

You are suddenly wide awake

In the deep velvet night

Thinking once more—of loss

 

As time passes, names become specks

Of stardust

People become dream emblems

And you recede into a glass world

Birthed from the shards of the

Broken one

You breathe in your own embrace

But the wound is still raw

And you are adamant to cut deep

Into its frail tissue

With scalpels of reason

Old wound is like a promise

You made a thousand times

That you broke and felt nothing
but when it was broken

Your world was set asunder

And when day in and day out

Promises are made and broken

And you shudder and coil

At the very thought—of promise

As habitually hope

Is stabbed

People die

You don’t even arrange a funeral
to say your goodbyes
they remain

In the coffins we leave in the attics

And we bring them undone of their shrouds

Only to mourn and wail

 

A Chance

As the newly planted Chinars

On the sidewalks of busy Tehranian streets

Are fed to the brim with hope

From their branches, hang countless

Desires of blissful youth

The laugh of a tearful eye,

Drops and spreads across

The sheets made of stolen light,

The sun’s desolation

Is a red blanket

Engulfing the Dal Lake

 

Is there a chance for the rowing boats?

To shudder ashore

Can the blaze, set in the yard,

By springs to the charcoal of our hearts

Bring warmth?

Even though it rains

Here in Tehran

 

Is there a chance we will survive?

And be unmoved by our pain

Steady like Zabarwan

And hang this façade

Of warmongers

Arriving in peaceful attire

Life demands of us

Passion!

Go on, take the broken telephone lines

To whisper

A goodbye to despots

In a purple velvet voice

 

The check posts that have scattered

In lure of the crimson

Of our evenings

And that attempt to steal the lustre

Of our milky mornings

Stand on the fallen bridges
I see nothing

But fatigued soldiers

And as against the mad lovers

They will only have to disperse

In the thick fog

Of our painful winter

 

Our hearts, wrapped in the skin

Of a mother’s womb

Beats amidst the tumultuous

Serenade of kingfishers

We sleep in our graves

Made on a fumarole

What would have happened?

Wasn’t it inevitable?

Yet, I wonder

How the chinars in Tehran

Are so young?

 

Is there a chance Chinars will stand
tall on the road to Varmul

And fire is not set to dry leaves

No more

But to enforced belonging

And warmth remains

Intact of what we offer visitors

In a Kangir on dewy mornings

 

Is there a chance we will survive?

And my poem will finish

Between the moment

You pour me a cup of nun chai

And grandma’s radio

Announces Freedom

 

The Departed

We have written you letters

From the loose end of this world,

Where inhabitants are made of colossal smoke

Emanating from the fire set to our dreams

We live here

Your eyes see in us no value

Except if we make for

Hands made of torn life

Offering to clean

Dirt gathered in the midst

Of your unclenched rosy palms

While you take our land

And drive us out

You may build cities of splendour

While our souls will still cling

To the bases of these buildings

We may leave behind

Some of us

The timid ones

The short-sighted ones

So they find value

In their relationship

With you!
Our tired eyes and broken backs

Bruised bodies and hurting wombs

Make our flight of value

We are not nameless faces

Or faceless numbers

We reject your portraiture

Of our indiscreet lives

We don’t live in your books

Or libraries

We have written you letters

But you can’t read them

Our ink isn’t made of a discernible colour

It may have vaporized like our hope

Perhaps, there is no kindle version available

On amazon

To read in graphic detail

Our fanged race to death

Initiated by your urge

To ride in the glittering metro trains

We write our stories in words that make us human

As we melt into hugs

In each other's embrace become tears

As one of us dies

A brutal death

Our words make us bear this pain of extermination

As we continue to exist as a colossal smoke

Emanating from the fire set to our dreams

But fire is uncivilized,

It spreads,

It discriminates against no dreams

From this loose end of the world

We are still connected to you

As a mirror,

A reflection of this uncivilized desire

To civilize us!

 

Live in Me

I never expected

You will live in me

When I oversaw

A stillbirth of romance

Soon after

You took lines

Hanging in the air I breathe

And perched them

Under the claws of insistence

I tossed and turned

Becoming fatal rhymes

Made of madness

I don’t blame you

But your insistent eyes

Those are still

Engraved in my skin

As I drape my history

For a cloak

And run to hide

And confess

My shame to God

But what shame?

To witness the night

From which I barely emerged

Bloodied bodies

Splattered limbs

And children cried profusely

Only to burst into laughter

As their fathers, held at gun-points

Were paraded naked

My shame imitates that laughter

And bursts into pangs

Of sighs

Nothing is hidden from God

Hell is not for us

But should we demand paradise?

It is what we were bestowed with

And that is what we have lost

And I cradle you

Away from my burning

Hearth

To console you

That I shall be here

But there is no one

To hold me

Will you still live in me?

Only as a consolation.



About the Author(s):