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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/31/19

Verses of Violence

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"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'A Defence of Poetry'

"...poetry makes nothing happen..."

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-- W H Auden, 'In Memory of W. B. Yeats'


Under the mango tree

My elders always
warned me
not to climb
trees at twilight
when the cows
come home...
they say that
that's when
satan lurks
in the branches

But the branches
were so heavy
with mangoes!

The green sward
miled away
towards the
villages
their tin or
thatched roofs
peeping between
areca palms
bamboo groves and
jackfruit trees

Smoke rose
in spirals
from a
housewife's
earthen stove
above the trees
into the cyan
sky

The orange
yolk of sun
descended
with dignity
and opposite
the silver
eggshell of moon
ascended with
modesty

The cuckoo
uttered its
last calls
shadows lengthen
shadows lengthen

A king crow
caught its
last insects
jetting upward
then diving down
with its prey
between its beaks
to rest on a branch

I reclined on
a high limb
the foliage
like a hut
around me
the mango tasted
sour
but the smell
nearly
inebriated

The wind soughed
like a premonition

I heard people
moving below

"We told you
to have the
money ready"

"Please please"

"We gave you
two days
don't you
know who
we are?"

"Yes yes yes
you are good
boys
good students
from the
high school..."

"We're with
the ruling party
you bastard"

"We're student
activists
big men in
the party
and you
have to
die"

"I'll pay you
two lakh takas..."

"You had your
chance
you must set
an example
the party needs
money"

Silence

I couldn't
hear the
crickets

As though
they too
were
incredulous

My fingers
felt the branch
like a woman's
glass bangle

The rough surface
against my
clammy palm
telegraphed safety

My lungi was wet
with sweat
in the humid
air

The men below
hacked and grunted
until the moon
was nearly
overhead

Thunder growled
somewhere
but it didn't rain
I was thirsty

The next day
seven parts
of a human
body were
found in
the paddy fields

A few days
later the
head was dug
up by a dog
but the face
was unrecognisable

They were boys
from my school
I played football
with them

But I never
climbed a
mango tree
at twilight
again


V

V is for votes
V is for victory
V is for violence

V is for virgin
raped by the boys
from the party
that won the most votes
V is for violence

V is for voice
that no one heard
V is for verdant
rice-fields
where they found her
dead
V is for voiceless

V is for the storks
in echelon
over her grave

V is for venom
of mother
burying her child
V is for virtue
V is for vice
V is for vengeance

V is for voters
who are never wrong


Among the Fireflies

I'll never forget
the night

The air smelled
of young paddy
half-grown in
the wet fields

The fireflies
performed their
mating dances
among the stalks
mimicking stars
in the moonless
unclouded sky

Heaven and earth
were aflame

How welcome was
the breeze on that
sultry night!
the paddy murmured
to its caress

I knew my way
to my uncle's
house in the next
village, so I didn't
switch on the torch

Then I stopped

I heard a gurgling
sound proceed from
the darkness ahead

My mouth went dry
my hands perspired

I walked swiftly
into the wet fields
and lay in the mud

I could make out
figures walking
past me
I recognised their
voices

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They were boys from
my school, student
politicians, my age
fifteen

I waited, then came
out and walked towards
my uncle's village
I wanted a bath
in his pond
and to change
my muddy lungi

I stumbled over
something and fell
my torch worked

It was a boy's head
the body lay a few feet away

I knew him, too
a student activist

I told no one
but bathed in my
uncle's pond
shivering in
summer


Kerosene

Last night I was
in my slum

There was a 24-
hour hartal
which meant that
any vehicle on
the roads would
be demolished
by the opposition
party activists

The night was muggy
for the sky was clear
with stars

A rickshaw puller
came pedalling up
the road, the rickshaw
squeaking

A group of student
politicians stopped
him and made him
get off

They sprinkled kerosene
on the rickshaw and
the rickshaw puller
began to wail
he pleaded with them

They laughed and lit
a match, and the rickshaw
burst into flames

The rickshaw puller
was frantic - it was
his only source of
income - and he
tried to put out
the fire

Then the boys poured
kerosene on his
body - his lungi and
vest were drenched

I could smell the
kerosene

Then the boys lit
a match and set
him on fire

He shrieked

After a few minutes
he smelled like
shish kebab
over glowing charcoal
fanned by the breeze

I wanted to help
him, but I knew
that if I did,
I would be burnt
alive as well


Among the paddy

Last night I went
to the paddy fields
to relieve myself

The moon was full
and the paddy glowed

It murmured in the wind
the night was hot

Then I heard the boys

I could see them
but they couldn't see me
where I was squatting

The girl was begging them
and they were laughing

They ripped off her clothes
and lifted their lungis
and took turns

I recognised them
they were boys from
the ruling party
the MP's vote bank

Finally, when they were
satisfied they pulled out
a knife that gleamed
in the moonlight

They slit her throat

When the boys were
gone I crept out
and ran

I didn't tell the police
the police know,
anyway, but they
dare not do anything

Besides, if I told the
police, they would kill
me, like the girl

Fear of young men

I was afraid
of young men

if I saw several
approaching
I crossed
the street

On vacations
I looked over
my shoulder
again and again
if there were
young men
behind

They could slit
your belly
or chop
you up
into several
hundred pieces

They could rape
and kill

For the parties
had turned
young men
into
young animals

Exploiting fully
the age of
criminality
between
sixteen and
thirty-five

The age of
animality

Now that military
rule has returned
I don't cross
the street
or look over
my shoulder

But I mustn't
lose the habit
for the western
donors
want the beasts
back
released

 

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Iftekhar Sayeed Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, "ŽBangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL "ŽTEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. "ŽHe is also a (more...)
 
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Democracy makes us civic/situational enemies. Bangladesh is not in a state of war, yet war poets would be perfectly at home here.

Submitted on Friday, May 31, 2019 at 2:04:55 AM

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