I

Water-like, free flowing, sunlit
Soft clay being
What do I call you but human
Of eight springs, till my eighteenth one
Unlucky perhaps
To have breathed, looked, been
The accidental infidel.
Your flower skin charred to a black,
Lump of foreign, alien flesh
You, blood of sinners and savages
Spilled on this earth
Of the goddess
Dead, dead, dead
Long before they killed you
It’s been two more years living, dying in this place
In this unfortunate different corpse-like self
Female, torn, fragmented.
But for you
Asifa, Asifa.

II

I haven’t thought of you
Two hundred odd days
I couldn’t think of you
Pine forests and muted sunlight
Well trodden stony paths, descending
And guraas
All tucked away.
“This isn’t Syria”
“Largest democracy….capital”
“Not my country”
I just couldn’t think of you
They’ve burnt down the houses
Words fly around and a heap on the ground
Of ashes and helplessness
Covers the windows
My mind is a crisscross of shed blood and debris
Of purpose and futility
They’ve burnt the mosques and their faith
And our ties
They’ve cut open wounds that the fabric of trust had barely held together
For centuries
It did not take much
It did take you and me
It did take the buried skulls
The spectre of Direct Action Day
Or 2002
They will just add to the pyres and graves-forbidden now
The saffron fire licks at our passivity
Wipes clean the casual, effortless love
Between us and them.
I can’t think of you
Far away in the North
My mind stops short of the North
The blunted edges of words like “Azaan”
My mind is stuck in an untouched valley
“Heaven on Earth”
In this room, there is nothing
The stillness of clean clothes scattered like corpses
Strewn
The silence of the hills
In this room, there is ample scope to think
I couldn’t think of you
I tried.

III

If you wish to give me a gift,
Give me a box of the street child’s hunger
Or a box of the fear that comes with skullcaps and burqas
And a different name.
Give me Kashmir’s inhuman cold but not flowers from Gulmarg
They’ve always been there but escaped your ever-searching, hungry eyes
Long before these days of incarceration
And a never felt fear of death
In springtime.
Quarantined.
Long before it became the world’s to feel
If you really wish to paint me a picture,
Paint Iraq’s imprisonment in a destroyed home.
Paint red blood of the last man they lynched,
Or Syria’s everyday death
If you wish to give me something,
I want to not think of death
When at the edge, of myself,
Always.
Give me thoughts of life, not yours or mine – wasted in plenitude
But life as they imagine
A little less tomorrow than yesterday.
But never more than a box,
Never the thing in its entirety,
For look at the world- it’s dying.
Like you, like us.
If you wish to, take me away for a day
Just so that I can write a little longer,
So that I can pretend to feel
To understand.
What have we done all these days?
From behind our tinted screens
Careful not to let it touch us,
In all its terrifying splendor of nothing
An endless play of us and them
If you wish to give me something today, don’t

IV

To ask these questions would be absurd
The music with every note strikes a chord
Whatever is left of the music
In whatever is left of me
What could there be but the music in these times?
Of you and me
Of death
Of the lack of it
To ask these questions is to wonder why
Why they are in there and why
Why we are on the outside
Separated by a huge, bleeding nothingness
what if we cease to exist?
what if we cease, even, to perish and end?
To just stop
And stop there, here
Cease to be
To have been
I will collapse
On this heap of easy sins
Yours and mine
Inevitable

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