3 min read

in the same breath 


                                   i will not read the newspaper,

                                   where headlines chafe against their hem

                                   to the sound of january dogs and broken glass 

i will bend down and break 

into autumn, growing verdin with fever, 

prepared to gather all that falls 

i will sit down to recite my promise 

to the dead, who lie awake 

in my dreams all night, asking questions 

i will finish writing this letter to aasif sultan 

where his daughter traces sunflowers,

nibbling at the morning of his absence 

i will rub my sweat and grow wings, ascending 

to the last summit to plant 

the kernel of doubt in god's omniscient ears

i will tear the national flag and prepare shrouds 

for every firefly i can count underneath the rubble — 

may their shame come to an end 

i will say stone and memory 

will remember its crime of lying 

outstretched, reaching for the scent of arrival: 

                              aadil, zubair, burhan, tufail, manan, asiya, neelofer, 

                              osaib, yawar, fahmeeda, ghulam mohammad bhat 

i will crawl all over the horizon, measuring 

the length of time, 

satisfied, i will recline under its falling roof 

amma, amma, 

today, i will become lichen 

on the tree: just as quiet, 

spreading like despair on the streets 

a limitless field of purple, i will be 

that where every wound germinates, waiting 

for its harvest.

a suspicion  

it must have been a pomegranate

                                                               that we were held inside— 


                                                                in the manner of blood-entombed pearls: 

just as ordinary and as singular,

                                                                always waiting

for the solitude of the knife

                                                                to go through us.

Tired People

I confess: we are the tired people. Yes, those ones. We are found on collars rubbed against the oblivious neck. We are grime, the grim remainder of the day. Mostly recognisable by our drooping eyes, we prefer to sit with a grandmothered slouch. Our origins remain unknown: we are either a blame or a blemish, either a conspiracy or a routine. Some suspect that we are from the pungent clan of sweat, others are convinced that verily we belong to smoke and verily to smoke do we return. But everyone agrees that we must be done away with. We are stubborn and we are tired. Our exhaustion does not even let us vanish. We do not cease to be; even with the hardest scrub, we always take away a part of that which is beloved to you. Why will you believe me, for I stand among the tired? So, hold your shirt now—the cleanest collar is the one where we have left the marks of our teeth. A document embossing our presence. Run your finger over the coarse history of our struggle. Serrated shock. I have had no option but to admit that we are the tired ones, useless and unwanted. Do with us what you want. We are so tired. Sometimes, the night visits us—for what is night if not a long, uninterrupted chain of grime—and collects our tears to irrigate its star-fields. In those brief moments, we, the tired people become the tired, burning ones.

Shivangi Mariam Raj is a writer, translator, and independent researcher from Delhi. She works with The Funambulist, a magazine dedicated to the politics of space and bodies.

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