The Jeet Thayil poem they wouldn’t publish because it’s ‘too explicitly political’

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.

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Updated Date: Feb 25, 2016 13:41:40 IST

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