27 October 1947

Ather Zia

You speak of “paradise”—
waterfalls, with some ebb,
still rush over weary shoulders
of mountains that stand
like knowing children
in Maisuma
during a “crackdown”—

meaningless exercises in words,
left empty by presence of soldiers
who guard wilting lotuses and stone
domes of other tyrannies
against soft bodies and hard
reserves of Kashmiri flesh.

Yes, I am to be blamed as well.
There should have been no poetry
after Auschwitz, Treblinka,
Hebron, Gaza
and other hell-holes of inhumanity.
There should be no paradise either
for your “security forces”
who killed Tufail, and Wamik,
Afzal, and Husna.

Your security makes all insecure
even the exception from Gupkar
to Zabarwan and every alley
I need permission to see,
where bunkers ooze like sludge,
choking my grandfather’s
courtyard downtown.

How do we know Paradise,
or that we live in one?
Last time I checked in,
they patted down a corpse.
It did not bear an ID card.
O Ashfaq, I knew you well.

Ather Zia is an anthropologist and a writer. Her ethnographic poetry on Kashmir won second place in the Victor Turner prize competition by the American Society of Humanistic Anthropology. Her first collection of poems is titled “The Frame” and she is also the managing editor of Kashmir Lit

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