Poem by Sagorika Haque
Art by Napat Asavamongkolkul
- in meek tribute to those martyred for সত্য, স্বাধীনতা, এবং মুক্ত মন; truth, liberty, and the free mind
Fellow servants of the state, take care
to armor your belief, the body
is of little cost. A statistical flicker, leaping
on and off midgrade paper. Not even a headline,
no such generosity will be accorded
until your ears are deafened again.
The mosquitoes come, drawn to the wolfish scent
of blood, lustrous in shade, civil in nature.
Asphalt and copper elope well,
the television anchors at gunpoint
will have you trust. That word, foreign
in hungry mouth, blisters at contact
with truth – are our memories failing,
rushed street blurring with rushed street;
the discord of unrest, the harsh echo of blasts, broken windows
a neighborhood over; curved blades in the sun
A book fair. Shield. Mask. Barricades stormed with night-jasmine.
Lakes and rancid rivers rich with corpses,
rank with knowing. Radio silence, the twenty-four hour
news cycle idles. Malnourished chickens. Chemically
fattened Oradexon cows. My liberties meet with denial
of my realities; oh, how you flaunt your power well, these bullets. Some visuals:
tears rolling down dirtied faces, spirited, the gas impenetrable and intimate
cocoon-like. A shroud for shrouds. Blood blossoming on a school shirt.
National truth committees held in the shade
of offseason jackfruit trees; the uniformed children swaying above.
I was born with gold in my mouth and claws in my eyes.
My city was built on strained backs and fortune was kind,
she dealt me an unusual hand, gave me marble
to stand on, marble to be beaten on, marble to bleed on.
Be small, I was told. Be meaningless. Be compliant.
Chup kor. Quiet. You think you matter in this house?
Dare not raise your voice, dare not speak
a single constitutionally enshrined word. Acknowledge
and appreciate the freedoms given to you. Dissent is costly and unfashionable.
Think of those who have less, think of those who have less!
Screamed at me as if my thoughts were mine to begin with,
as if I chose to not know ignorance. As if I chose to fear
walking down roads with my own two bare, immoral, salacious legs,
as if I chose to know my rights, as if I chose to be –
as if worth had worth anymore.
Around, the crows linger, the rot in me alluring; nothing is isolated.
They watch from the walls. They watch from the screens.
“We have given you everything. Cement, steel, occasional electricity,
tained tapwater, the very right to have rights, the ground beneath your cursed feet,
and not the ground above your lungs – be grateful, believe less, go back to school,
you petulant, disrespectful, beyadob little thing.
Here is a sponsored street-sign for your troubles. A half-melted lozenge,
mind not the ants. Bite your tongue and enjoy our mercy.”
To a soul so privileged and enriched, subservience does tempt,
the comfort of air-conditioned walls, the chauffeured taxed cars,
the occasional rooftop discourse, words hollow and resignation-fueled,
you may be blameless to mirrors but your calm is dangerous.
It enables. It turns a blind eye. It kills in broad daylight.
Look to your skies. Meet the gazes that look down at you –
you do not need me to tell you we are not equal.
Choked oceans, expanding seas, charred leaves, uprooted trees,
all they can speak of anymore is the pure and impure; the created and the owed.
Not being the source of disease is no excuse for willful infection,
accountability exists solely because it must.
A culture of fear drives. A culture of fear awakens. The light of dusk
is brilliant, crimson, a virulent green – can you hear its call to you?
It echoes the revolution that runs in your veins, as it does mine —
1857. 1952. 1971. 1990. 2010. 18.
History awaits your words in its blank pages,
the voiceless are a myth. It is only the loud and the forcefully silenced.