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Month: December 2020

Unshakeable

  -Christmas Eve, 2020

Tonight in Taloja Central Jail,
Father Stan Swamy shakes 
but also rejoices;

he knows that soon enough
carpenters, fishers and blunt 
speaking women

will join others who labour—
in fields and factories,
forests and homes—

and that all those who hunger 
will be satisfied,

and our weeping 
will turn to laughter.
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13 Ways of Looking at a Farmer

The dirt that clings 
to the potatoes you hold
came from a farmer’s field.

I dreamt a soft-spoken farmer 
taught me how to tell
when the corn is ripe.

It was still dark that morning 
we heard your uncle 
shuffle out to milk the cows;
eighty years old, 
and still a farmer.

On the coldest day of December,
a boy grafts a rose onto 
a branch of China Orange.
He wants to be a farmer.

Somewhere, the winter 
wheat is in the ground;
a farmer looks out 
at her field and smiles.

A farmer can tell you
how deep you must drill.

Listen to the creak and splash
of the farmer’s hand pump;
tonight there will be a wedding.

On Human Rights Day,
posters of political prisoners
spring up on Tikri border. 
Farmers are also humans.

It is cold on the Singhu border;
farmers light fires and plan.

Libraries sprout like tulips; 
farmers are readers,
spring has come early.

rupi kaur is writing about farmers—
she just called Modi a tyrant.

Are there three lakh or ten?
Perhaps it does not matter.
Amit Shah fears our farmers.

He worked with his hands in the city,
and stood up for justice each day;
as he passes, we sing for this farmer—
we grow from seeds he has planted.
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This Number Does Not Exist

-for Manglesh Dabral

We were on the run,
and things were changing fast;

one moment, we were huddled 
on a windswept rocky ridge in Garhwal

peering down at an approaching line
of police and pack mules,

and the next, we were avoiding 
the CCTV Cameras

in Haridwar Junction;
you warned me:

Our enemy has many phone numbers,
and I didn’t understand you,

but also I did. We finally boarded 
a train destined 

for the Singhu Border, 
or Shaheen Bagh, or home;

when you disappeared, I took 
out my phone and dialed you;

a stranger’s voice answered,
This number does not exist.

Squatting and shaking
in the space between coaches,

I wrote my father a postcard.
I told him how much I loved him,

that I was trying to find 
my way back. 
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Love Jihad

-On the first anniversary of the CAA

Yesterday evening,
as we walked through Kotla Gaon,
the clamour of a ragged wedding band
mingled with the call to prayer,
and for a moment, I swear,
two bright sparks lit up the smoky sky,
and I thought of how worried I’d been
that day last December
when you texted from a police bus
on the outskirts of the city,
and how I bit down on my tongue
when you said that when they freed you, 
you would go right back again.
But when we met at Jantar Mantar,
I knew you had been right;

love is always a struggle—
we struggle because we love.
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City Edition, 7 Am

I’d just boarded a southbound train,
or was it a DTC Bus? 

Maybe it does not matter;
I got a seat all to myself.

A man sitting four seats away
beckoned me to come over;

he looked like he’d been out drinking—
or working; you can’t always tell. 

I moved closer, but not too close,
and asked him to tell me the news;

he whispered, The farmers are comingthey’ll do what we failed to do.
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Simple Definitions

-for Kunal Kamra

When children use kind words,
    that’s called a conversation;
and when they argue loudly,
    that’s an altercation.

While bullies everywhere 
    employ intimidation,
the clever must rely
    on wit and erudition.

If a friend helps calm things down,
    we call that mediation;
in the end so much depends 
   on good communication.

Still, when children can’t agree,
    we don’t talk of prosecution;
what argument gets solved
    by incarceration?

Some elders have forgotten
    complaints are not sedition,
and tolerance and humour
    are good for the whole nation.

I’ll spell it out in case
    you lack imagination:
democracy depends 
   on  freedom of expression
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