4 min read

The Colour Gul  

today Fareed Gul was shot down 

by a convoy full of policemen 

they found him at 5 this morning, 

clearing the mounds of pellucid snow 

that had gathered like anthills next 

to his apple orchard 

the men wore shirts the colour of an authoritarian green, skin the colour 

of muddied rainwater, leather holsters held sleek pistols they instructed him 

to stand up, 

then to crouch down, to put 

both his hands behind his head 

execution style, 

a total of four bullets were fired, the last between his grey brown eyes, 

as if Fareed Gul was a cow 

at the slaughterhouse 

today Fareed Gul made no sound, 

no ripple 

his death was as shrouded in silence 

as the blue lark's sleep, 

just another power cut in a veiled valley that has learnt to carry kerosene lamps 

the blood escapes his cranium 

staining the like 

raspberry juice, crushed pomegranate kernel, a melting laal gola 

today Fareed Gul was shot, soundlessly 

and today the women of his household 

will walk in solidarity to the graveyard

their silence so shrill, so soundless 

even the falling of their foot 

will sound like crossfire 

today Fareed Gul's young pregnant wife will not weep but today will be the last of 

the days her cheeks are flushed pink like rose water, 

in time she will grow sallow 

like wheat crop, the folds of her skin inundated with nameless worries 

her newborn son, a nameless reminder 

she will build Fareed Gul a mausoleum 

in her heart but his name will never leave the curl of her tongue again- 

a nameless martyr 

today the valley will chant Fareed Gul's name and the names of others like him, 

but tomorrow it will forget 

there will be new corpses to mourn, 

a new roster of names to etch into its icy brown mountains, its feather coloured facades 

the Jhelum will flow regardless 

the jamun trees will shed with just as much zeal, 

the cedar blossom with just as much vigour 

today Fareed Gul's mother will weep 

but tomorrow she will look at the mint paint peeling off the walls, the lone squirrel running up the cedar tree, the children playing outside, clothed in pherans 

the colour of dust 

and wonder if they too will ever know 

a pain like hers in their ephemeral lives 

when she tries to share her grief she will find that it weighs more when fractioned, 

that each day and with each time his name is murmured 

her grief has a way of growing 

heavy, unmoving, tyrannical, 

that keeping it cloistered within her 

is the only way of journeying forward 

they will say 

maybe grief isn't meant to be shared 

today she will weep 

but tomorrow she will agree 

today was the day Fareed Gul painted the snow 

but tomorrow it will fall again 

what does snow know of who was slain, 

of right and wrong and all the technicolour of all the lives in between, 

what does it know of fighting for one's freedom 

and how in our great land 

the words revolutionary and terrorist

are often used interchangeably 

what does it know of tombs and tombstones 

that Fareed Gul's will read militant 

to some 

martyr to others.

Arrival In Phnom Penh


after emptying themselves out of a light rain  

the clouds shrouding the city depart 

leaving the mekong chortling


once more the roads are claimed by 

shrewd eyed motorists, by iridescent tuktuks 

ferrying a scolding of schoolchildren 

even amidst this assault 

I am drawn to the urchins and vendor women – 

selling fried bananas & banh chev

lok lak and roasted crickets, khmer coffee 

and pork baguettes and cambodian beer 

in tubs of ice – drawn like a kite string 

to the assuredness of them 

sticky and scorching afternoons I spend exploring the palace, 

it’s quicksilver pagodas, 

it’s cannonball trees 

a palace cat trails me, eyeing the rice flour crepes in my hand 

with insolent green eyes that 

remind me of smooth jade in the night market 

when the day’s end approaches 

the city seems to vacillate then give itself up 

to the cool, sparkling waters 

of the Tonle sap 

where a few decades ago carcasses had floated downstream, 

water lilies now grow 

quickly infesting the embankment - 

an afterthought 

climbing up the hill to Wat Phnom 

I pass orange robed monks that ever so gently 

bow their tonsured heads at me, 

when I tip an imaginary hat they gift me 

their clean laughter lines 

So often I notice, arriving in alien cities 

and between gold scalloped pavilions, I am given the chance once again 

to make up who I am 

to rearrange or reinvent or throw away whole bits, like vestiges 

Here I am given a chance to forget my hunger, my hollow, 

the emaciation of me 

from up the hill a panorama greets me, 

people, stray traffic going away then coming together,  

ants and their lines, 

somewhere below a woman lights an incense stick 

then brings her palms together to pray-

it is the same way I have been taught 

for a while all is silent 

then the city- a million headed vertebrate- 

stirs to life  

an animal rousing itself from 

the depths of sleep

A Bird’s Memory      

Some birds are said to have capacious memory, 

especially those that cache their food- 

the nutcracker hiding mealworm or bitter fruit 

in a knothole 

a sapphire winged scrub jay stashing away 

peanut chips or golden green shoots to 

eat as winter snack at a later date 

the nuthatches- small, insectivorous passerine birds 

carry brown hoppers carefully parceled 

under the bodice of their wings 

to bury beneath a swell of leaves 

even the woodpeckers are notorious hoarders- 

wedging acorns, hickory or hazelnut 

into hollowed tree bark as dry day treat 

to be rediscovered and relished many moons later 

wasn’t it grandmother who had said 

most birds commit to memory only that 

which is necessary for their survival 

the difference is that they very nearly 

have a choice 

crows not only remember human faces but pass the information

among their circles 

hey look there’s the ugly, bald man I was telling you about 

that leaves me berries 

and ornithologists have observed that chickadees 

grow their brains to larger sizes specifically during a caching period 

so they know exactly where to look, come fall 

for the spoils of spring’s previous plundering-  preserved peaches, 

a pillage of pine nuts 

or pistachio 

as for me 

I forgive the lapses in my memory, 

do not begrudge time’s blind thieving 

of my store     it is all worth it 

when I put my hands in the pockets of old trousers 

and to my surprise retrieve a peal of coins,       

a rare postal stamp 

or peppermint or pressed flower, 

an offering from my older self 

to my newer one 

some joys I am only able to gift myself 

because I have forgotten

Thanisha Santhosh, from Bangalore, is a 22-year-old poet currently in medical school. She practices both written and spoken word poetry. Her work explores themes of race, mental health, body image, femininity and the Indian subcontinent at large. In her free time, she loves to read, explore her interest in the Neurosciences, cook, and spend time with her dogs (a Labrador and German Shepherd/ Indie cross). She is the recipient of a commendable mention in the National Wingword Poetry Prize (2018). Her poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Poetic Medicine- An Anthology, Sandy River Review, Hearth Mag, Creatures Mag, Riverbed Review, Sea Glass Lit, Strange City Digest and others. You can find her work on Instagram @_thanishaa, or her blog theministryofmotheatenmulberries.wordpress.com

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