for Santanu. . .
Santanu: wholesome: hólos
You are the vase, shattered
years ago during the dark voyage
through the Middle Passage.
Today, the children
play around you in a circle
like an ocean of hope; their
skin parched with heat, and yet
their eyes glimmer brighter
than a thousand stars. Blesséd are they,
Blesséd are you, Blesséd are the pieces
with which they construct you
as a whole again every year
amid the festivities
of Ramleela at Trinidad. Kintsugi,
they call it in Japanese: the art
of repairing broken pottery.
Santanu, look! The sun is slipping
through your fingers, through
your cracks like a shower of gold
on Danaë through the skylight
in a broken chamber. It maybe
enslavement to another person,
but it is liberation from the past—
liberation from the dark chamber
that you have created for yourself.
Look up, and remember,
you are a house, not broken
but whole. Underneath your
roof the bitch with four litters and
the woman out of time together wait
in harmony and sisterhood
for the rain to cease
on stormy nights.
You are safety. You are security.
You are certainty.
Santanu: whole, yet broken
at very point of your conception.
There was no language in your tribe
to craft when you were born; a flower
blooming somewhere in the matrix
of signifiers asking an ‘x’ for a ‘y’
and a ‘y’ for an ‘x’ to preserve a hierarchy
of oppression. You were the rain,
born to fall, and yet, when fall,
to quench the thirst
of a world set on fire. You are
our sin, our hope, our
redemption, our absolution. You
are the fire. The salvation of a whole
race of people waiting
on the bank of the river at dawn. You,
who has burnt a thousand times
in the silent pyres of shame,
shall offer them liberation
with your ‘word’. Blesséd be the child
who is born of your conscience.
Santanu, do not rush. Do not
forget to breathe. Look around.
Your night sky is as starry as the
sky of the Syrian orphan—her whole
family blown to dust, all twinkling
in a constellation of eternal blessing.
Santanu, I know
that sometimes you feel tired
of wearing your skin, of
speaking, and breathing and sweating
and breathing in one continuous
moment that weights you down
and leaves you numb and shattered and
empty-mounted all at once. I know
that sometimes the walls of your house
seem to lean on you like strange faces
in unknown aisles, and that sometimes,
the lonely streets at midnight seems
more familiar than two hands you held
all your life. I know, how
your throat stiffens at
the thought of having to spent
yet another day among a colony of
people who ask you every single
minute of your purpose, and I know
that even though you never show,
you are seized by a fear every time
I remind you of how you’ll be gone
to other lands by this time
the next summer.
Do not worry: that is just human.
And Santanu, because you forget,
you always forget, and tend to
forget; let me tell you:
when you find yourself alone
walking through the languid night, being
smothered slowly by the darkness,
you are a sea of people
standing before the gas ovens at Auschwitz,
waiting to be burned. A sea without
a history. They will speak now.
Santanu, you are Medusa,
lying on the floor of Artemis’
temple, the blood between your
tights a full bloom, the night deep
in slumber over your head. She will
rise and speak now. Santanu, you are
the voice of the slave, mutilated
in the silence of the plantations. A voice
without a face. The night is rising,
they’ll rise and sing now.
. . .You are,
a thousand widows huddling
helplessly in the shades of Vrindavan, a
thousand lepers couching near the stairs
of Madurai, a thousand brides
burning without a name on the pyres
of tradition, a thousand brothers
hacked to death on the altars
of casteism, a thousand sisters
stolen off the maps during the anomy
of Partition, and a thousand mothers who have hoped
to cross the border of illusion to meet their
sons and daughters in India,
Bangladesh and Pakistan. When they
burnt you on the stakes, raped you
in temples, and butchered you
on the streets, they forgot,
that every fire leaves its mark behind,
every blood leaves its stains behind.
This is your history Santanu,
this is your past, and on this
you shall build your future. From
one eternity to another, from spirit
to consciousness, from time within
to time without, by women dancing
on mountaintops to the rhythm
of creative lawlessness, to the eye
of existence, the silence. Rise.
Santanu: wholesome: hólos
and yet broken: kintsugi.
The bow and the lyre. Kalos kagaithos. Kumbha.
on lonely nights, you ask me,
“Where does this light come from?”
and I say, “look inside,
through all the cracks
and the crevices left
on your skin
like battle marks,
through all the gaps
in the barbed wires and
all the fractures on
the Trojan walls
hold your bruised heart,
there, there. . .
that is where the light comes from.”