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Month: May 2022

Painful

-for Professor Ratan Lal

The feelings of powerful people
are so easily hurt, lately–

the police investigate satire
as if wit were a felony.

Reason, humour, history
are now enemies of the state;

solidarity’s called ‘terror’; 
they see love and say ‘hate’.  

But what do they find most painful?
A Dalit who speaks his mind, friends!

(If Ambedkar were alive today,
Tihar Jail is where you’d find him.)
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Two Hundred Poems Later, the No-Name Poet Tries to Explain

After the abrogation,
but before Shaheen Bagh–
the Ayodhya verdict was in the news,
we all sensed a deepening dark.
I think we were in Kolkata–
or maybe I have that wrong;
we were celebrating your love–
I wanted to write you a song.
It might have included lovers
holding hands under tube lights– 
maybe dust, or my father’s hair–
I tried, but it didn’t feel right.
My friend, I did not tell you,
but that was the day I decided
to learn how to sing of the dark times,
to banish the censors inside.
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Father Stan Swamy Came to Delhi Last Week

I was sitting near the back 
at the launch of G.N. Saibaba’s 
book of poems and letters from prison
when he slipped into the seat on my left– 
I might not have noticed, 
but his white hair was glowing 
like a Christmas star,
or a tube light hung on the wall
behind the priest at at Midnight Mass.
His tremors were mostly gone;
I only saw him shake once–
when A.S. Vasantha Kumari 
described the solitary confinement 
cells in the Nagpur Central Jail.
He disappeared before the Q and A,
but later as I stood outside with friends
giving thanks for the cool May rain
we heard him whisper as he passed:

Breathe deep, comrades, breathe deep–
tonight you can smell the forest.
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