Tiny Purple-Clad Child

Yesterday
I went to the sanctuary
Whither incense
And flowers
Sweetly perfumed the air.
They told me I’d find peace there.

Yesterday
I went to the forest
Whither I basked
In the fragrance
Of sunlight-warmed dew.
They told me I’d find beauty there.

Yesterday
I went to the pond
Whither I saw a string of ponies
Trotting homeward
Following the lead
Of a tiny purple-clad child.
They told me I’d find innocence there.

Today
I went to the sanctuary
Whither the air was heavy
With the smell of blasphemous sacrifice
That neither camphor nor jasmine
Could mask.
I found no peace there.

Today
I went to the forest
Whither the soil was saturated
With the lifeblood of an innocent
Defiled by non-human beasts
Who are running free.
I found no beauty there.

Today
I went to the edge of the pond
Whither the horses came to drink
But
I found no tiny purple-clad child there.
How could I?
I couldn’t.
She was dead.

(Asifa Banu, the child in the pictures, eight-years-old, was the victim of a brutal gang-rape and murder. This is her story: http://gulfnews.com/news/asia/india/asifa-bano-this-8-year-old-s-rape-and-murder-is-a-horror-story-beyond-sexual-violence-in-india-1.2204423

Rest in peace, Asifa. You didn’t deserve to die.)

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Okay

You spend nights
Leaving salt-trimmed wet stains
On gaily patterned pillowcases
When the house is dark
Because the shame of a pair of eyes
Seeing yours crying
Would be unbearable.
After all,
The things you cry about,
Aren’t moving enough
To be shared or heard.
You spend days
Carrying back-bending burdens
That indispose you to cheer
And tire every cell in your body,
Leaving you exhausted at sundown
But unable to find rest or sleep.
You dump your most dangerous feelings
Into a glass bottle
And cork it up.
You know that’s dangerous,
But you do it anyway
Because your heart is already
Criss-crossed with so many scars
That a few more
Wouldn’t really make
That much of a difference.
You walk around
With sorrow stinging your eyes
Like a hundred angry hornets,
But for the sake of appearances,
You’re absolutely fine,
You couldn’t get any better.
Those bags around your eyes?
You pass them off
As the consequences of a three-hour slumber.
But you’re still here…
Breathing—
You never dragged a blade along the inside of your wrist,
Heart beating—
You never fell asleep unnaturally in a filled bathtub,
Alive—
You never drowned your troubles in lethal cocktails.
You’re okay.

Brave the Night

My Sun has set on this place,

This place that once reminded me of home,

Leaving it stripped 

Of warm light,

Of heartening color.
Now that my beacon is gone,

I grope in the darkness of 

This serpents’ hunting ground,

This whispering ghosts’ lair.
No more does a flower raise its head here;

No more birdsong is heard amidst the boughs—

There’s naught to soothe my senses,

Naught to allay my fears,

Naught to give me a grain of hope. 
The cold surrounds me 

Like a band of menacers.

Its sting is merciless, painful…

And I fear its evil might. 
Maybe I can try running,

But I fear my path sports 

A litter of sharp, blood-hungry stones

And a scatter of brambles.
This night is too long

And too full of terrors. 

When do you intend returning,

My dearly beloved Sunshine?

These fiends will fly far 

At the sight of your splendor. 
Your coming is certain,

That much do I know.

I’ll see the flowers bloom,

I’ll hear the birds once more.

But ‘tween then and now,

I must brave the night alone.

Prodigal Poetic Child

She returned to the dust-laden desk

   like a burdened sinner to the confessional,

   but the words refused to come freely.

They forsook her, her constant allies,

   for she turned not to them as often as

   unspoken obligation dictated. 

Now, she spins no word-web of gold,

   unaided by the agents of sophistication;

   the rich gold dust of her imagery is 

   a hundred removes from its erstwhile brilliance.

Post the better part of an hour spent     

   laboriously striking at desiccated rocks that 

   yielded no water, the prodigal child 

   turned to suppliance:

“Omnipotent Word, help me find the words again…”

Défaite

Même si tu escalades la montagne le plus haute,Tu ne peux pas rester là toujours.

Car tu dois retourner au monde ce que tu vois d’en-haut,

Au monde où tu appartiens, le monde d’en-dessous. 
La couronne de la Victoire ne reste pas 

Définitivement sur une seule tête.

Défaite peut chante ses ballades tristes à voix basse

Pendant que la Victoire chante ses hymnes clairets. 
Le goût du Triomphe est doux 

Comme le lait avec le chèvrefeuille. 

Défaite est un pichet de médecine amère,

S’attardant écoeurante aux papilles.
Mais cher âme abattu et battu, 

Aujourd’hui il y aura une blessure, il y a de l’épreuve,

Demain il y aurait seule une cicatrice, une mémoire. 

Je m’oppose à ce que tu émeuves. 

Destroyer 

For what, I ask, do you waste yourself 

Raining on a beautiful canvas while it’s drying?

Decanting your acid into my spring waters? 

Destroying what you haven’t created?
My happiness, does it counteract yours?

Does breaking bridges gratify your appetite for destruction?

(But all you can hope to achieve is a non-calamitous dent.) 
I’m a leaning tower that defies 

The gravity of your acrimoniousness 

That persistently but futilely labors to 

Cause my fall, my breakage. 

But the integrity of my substance 

Exceeds the strength of your pull,

Keeping me from shattering,

Keeping you from triumphing. 
The hand that holds the knife is not

Guaranteed against being cut by its own blade. 

The arm that swings the hammer of destruction

Will itself debilitate, courtesy of its weight. 

Evil Eyes

With coal dust in your myopic eyes
You see warped, distorted images

Like reflections in carnival mirrors,

The surface of disturbed water,

Or the cave of a polished spoon.
Seeing with a visual apparatus 

Slick with a film of judgment 

Perhaps renders your discolored, 

Tinged view of my world and me

To yourself most sightly.  
But, how long will you bear to see nightshade where there actually bloom roses?

Serpents where there actually stand people?

Relieve yourself of that judgmental culture, your cataract, your coal dust.
Do yourself a favor: wash your eyes and see,

Behold the beauty that is,

Rather than contriving an ugliness that never was.