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Eleven contemporary poems that remind us to substitute violence with empathy (especially right now)

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By Professor  

Sudhansu Firdaus’s timely and topical poetry, translated from the Hindi by Maaz Bin Bilal.

State or Slaughterhouse

What flowers when for us prisoners it is
forbidden to look at the garden wall through the cage

~ Mir Taqi Mir

is it your beauty or the thought of death
gardens spill over with roses this time

look at the eyes of the peacock with their immense wait

our helplessness, your pride

history bears witness
books are filled with vigorous tales
what do we achieve from this confusion
union or separation

these crooked lines
which form the circle that we call a country
where souls agitate for freedom daily
what else are they but prisons?

eons passed
time changed
books were scoured
yet no messiah to speak sooth

it is said that 
the sound of death 
is hidden in the eyes
now, at home or in the bazaar 
as eyes meet there is alarm

II

they are my brothers, no strangers
who call me traitor at every little thing
they crossed a limit when they said:

“he who asks questions is a Mussulman,
he should go to Pakistan”

mon frère, pardon, I hope you are not a Mussulman?”

in harmony our fathers had sought the means to immortality
wearing it as as a garb beyond death into eternity

we are paying the dues of our disharmony to die everyday

time is a miscreant who can take anyone in its grasp
all workmanship prior to
completion remains an idea

any minor decisions of the state
every petty command

is enough to tire you for life.

Slaughter

These days no one laughs 
wholeheartedly
neither does anyone cry

laughter is hidden in tears
and crying in weak smiles
– this was told to me by
that joker from the nautanki 
who sells chicken in the village bazar.

Fear

Fear, like an addiction,
always stayed with him

with shards of sunlight
on the lids of his eyes
and an amulet of grief 
hanging in his throat
he walks on.

What Will the Moon Do

when all the stars will go
and the reluctant night will leave
what will the moon do

when the sheet of grief will have spread so far
that there will be no way to step out of it
and the wait for someone will stretch evermore
and eyes shall get dark and darker still like the inner core of the lamp
then what will the moon do?

Where Are You Friend

It is the darkest of nights
the moon has been deported

in the distance, on the peepal,
fireflies have woven a blanket of light
where are you my friend?
I do not even have
my shadow
with me tonight.

The Messiah

He knew 
that he would never come

still, he spread the rumour of his coming
so that there is hope.

Friendship

The prostrate sky
said to the man lying on his back:
“how lonely are you!”

a whisper followed,
“you too,”
and both broke into a laugh.

Treatment

Making an incision of 
love
in the sky of grief
hope asked:
“how do you feel now?”

Rejection

When I said to her
You are very pretty and I love you
I started hating myself.
Even in my views of love
I was a slave to my forefathers.

Love Lane

Kabir’s love lane is very narrow

it suffocates

make some space
I come
a mob follows.


Muzzle

This world is spread
like the fresh leaves of gram

a cow whose mouth is shut with a muzzle
returns with water contained in her eyes
her muzzle straps taken off at the gate
and a bucketful of gram kept in front
which she swallows in one breath
her legs are then tied up
as she is milked

she shuts her eyes as she chews the cud at night
and finds herself grazing in the gram fields.

Sudhanssu Firdaus, born Sudhansu Shekhar, is a PhD student in mathematics at Jamia Millia Islamia. His first collection of verse is due from Sahitya Akademi this year. Firdaus is committed to writing nature poetry through which he approaches the political.

Maaz Bin Bilal is Assistant Professor in English at Jindal School of Liberal Arts, OP Jindal Global University. He is also a poet and translates from Hindi and Urdu. Maaz remains committed to friendships and multiculturalism.