Editor’s note Award winning novelist, poet and musician Jeet Thayil says this poem was rejected by a literary and cultural magazine for being too political. We told him we’d be happy to run it.
By Jeet Thayil
On television the new war
blares, we sick bitches lick
our wounds and try to recuperate,
cow logic, cowed rhetoric,
cowardly assassinations replicate
the ways god dons armor
in India, in twenty fifteen.
The earth picks at its scabs,
old wounds made fresh,
children crawl backward like crabs
to the cradle, no light, no progress,
only a cleansing of the unclean
as defined by the Prime Minister’s fringe
masters. His beard drips grammar
this morning, and though his fist
pumps properly for the camera,
he has lost faith in his tryst,
his destiny, his own words make him cringe
and grieve for the gone world, the great
transformation wrought on the past,
the sly erasure of names — Nehru,
Gandhi, Ambedkar — history recast
for the age of holy terror,
the tolerant taught to hate.
Why measure time with words
when word is met with violence?
How tame, how lame this line
met with silence,
how useless its meter and rhyme,
better far to speak to the birds
whose voices grow in panic or pity
as man’s horizon narrows
with his understanding and the sun
shrinks to a tight band of porous
saffron loud enough to stun
even him, the silent all-seeing deity.