From Exile with Love

Poems by Amjad Majid

In memory of going to an “Indian passport office” to get a passport:

1. Pehchaan Patr (“Permanent Residential Address:”)

They drafted it out
From ink and paper
Printed and laminated
Stamped, notarized, authorized
From bureau to bureau
From a filing cabinet
To stained yellow decrepit bureaucratic hands

And as exposed as I was then
I still remember now
That they drafted it out
From ink and paper
While I stood naked
Waiting in line,
in queue at the window,
holding my flesh and my blood

As my own…
…far away from my home.

2. You Can’t Draw a Map with a Gun

They put their barbed wire
around our open fields
and draw fences
out of instruments
made of thin air.
They paint our grass
a khaki green
and call our land
an integral part.
And indeed,
an integral part we are
of none but ourselves
separate from all else
refuged by a valley and mountain tops
and forest lands
that bear witness
and proclaim
as nature does
that we are of ourselves
and of none other
and we know one another
from our family names
that history calls us by
to remind us as history often does
that we are of ourselves
and of none other
than ourselves.
And there are those
who call our rivers
streams and water lanes
their jugular vein,
for them too

We are ours,
ours to keep
ours to stay
as it has been,
and as it shall be.

All of them together
are their own as well
as they have the right to be,
a right that for us
they have made a dispute
when it is
they who are disputed
they who are conflicted
uncertain of their borders,
and insecure enough
to line up uniforms and guns
like dominoes
that will topple over
one day in winter
when it becomes clear to them
that you can’t draw a map with a gun.

3. Disappeared Person

On a night like this
I could dig myself
an unmarked grave,
crawl in,
claim your face as mine
and give the name of death
to an abduction,
but I know well
that you are alive
in the hollow of a chinar

I see you there
at every corner
where my silence comes to rest
you are this land
as you are of this land
and your breath
is what pushes the wind here
you are between every Bismillah
and every Ameen
that holds me steadfast in prayer.

4. Curfew the Night

Curfew the streets,
the schools, our homes,
curfew the news,
the newspapers, radios,
the internet,
the television channels,

Curfew our speech,
our movement,
our protests,
our mourning,
our plight,

Curfew the truth
Curfew the night
Curfew freedom itself
if you will
if you dare

Curfew hope
Curfew life
and still you will find
Our one death divides you
into a frenzy of fear

You are paranoid and afraid
but fear not
one day,
we will free you from that fear.

5. From Exile with Love

You say we have time,
I say time has us,
it has grabbed us by the feet,
it has tied us to space.

There is a time before time
a thought before thinking
a feeling before feelings
a language before language,
there is such a place,
where you and I meet.

6. In Love at a Time of War

Many many days ago,
on a day before the yesterday of the day before
the world was borne from an apple,
we all saw the gardens rise from soil,
flowers opened for butterflies,
roses invited dewdrops,
birds avoided language and chirped instead.

We saw snowfall after sunrise and before sunset,
at the earliest of times,
heavy rains cracked open rocks,
from which waters gushed forth into rivers
that were soon lost in fountains, springs and streams.

Salt lost its solid state
and gave a liquid taste to the seas
and emotion to the first sadness
in the tears of the first newborn.

Many many days later,
on a morrow of the day after tomorrow
I have become flesh and bone from history
and today my heart has sweetened
red sugar rushes through my veins,

I speak
and I fail to understand my own language,
What are these words?
What is this feeling?
I look at your photographs,Their gloss reflects my new clarity.


Amjad Majid is a Kashmiri writer, poet and researcher.

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