Two poems by Ra Sh

1. The Valley of the Blind- A crow chronicle.

a pellet is a precious pearl.
soft as a grain of rice.
kisses the eye like a lover.
caresses the pupil like your mom.

crows are vile birds, traitors,
who predict the arrival of armed guests
in riot gear and armoured trucks.

crows in thirunaavaaya* perch on trees
and land on the rice balls offered
like long-departed souls, ever hungry.
one of them is my dad.

(one day he vanished and came back weeks later. he said he went visiting his crow brethren in shreenagaram**.)

he said (my Hindu dad said)
my Hindu dad’s Hindu soul said:

“son, in shreenagaram, there’s a crow for every man.
a platoon comes and people assemble.
all of them are blind, blinded, shot.
pellets doing henna designs
on their blank bloodied faces.
the gunners don’t know where to shoot,
so they shoot the pellets at us crows
in the valley of the blind.
the ground is covered in crow quills.
crow beaks, crow wings, and crow blood
till hundreds of crows fly in from housetops,
perch on the guns and the masks and
peck at the malevolent eyes.
I flew away when the state began to bleed.”

he dropped dead at the foot
of our mango tree. he had no eyes.
my dad’s soul was dead.

I removed 69 pellets from his heart
before cremating him.
I made a garland from the pellets
and gave it to my granddaughter to wear.

(Written for Kashmir.)

*Tirunaavaya – a waterfront where Hindus offer poojas to departed souls.

**Shreenagaram – Srinagar.

2. As if a ….

 As if a girl’s scream fell on the deaf ears of gods, hills and trees

As if a rape was not a rape, but just sticking pins into an inert doll

As if a gypsy girl was not a girl, but a plaything of aspiring ascetics

As if a temple was not an abode of God, but a rapist’s Sanctorum

As if a girl was not a girl, but a body to crush, smash and mutilate

As if a hole sprouted between her legs for the sport of macho men

As if a law was not a law but a shredded page of history

As if a policeman was not a law protector, but a lawbreaker

As if a lawyer was not a lawman, but a law bender

As if a legislator was not a lawmaker but a law ender

As if a rape was an innocent act like plucking a flower

As if a land named Kashmir was not a heaven under the stars

As if a heaven named Kashmir was a hell open to rape

As if

As if

As if a girl named Asif does not exist, didn’t exist, will not exist

As if Asif was never raped, never tortured, never ravaged

As if Asif is a myth, a fantasy, a lie, a fading photo

As if we are we were we will be ……

(An 8-year-old nomadic Gujjar Muslim girl was abducted and confined in a temple in Jammu for more than a week and continuously raped by a gang of men before being killed. It took 4 months for a charge sheet to be filed. Lawyers in Jammu were protesting against the arrest of the culprits instead of following the law.)

Ra Sh has published English-language poems ( both original and translations) in many national and international online and print magazines, Architecture of Flesh is his sole collection. His translations into English include Mother Forest (the biography of tribal leader C. K. Janu); Waking is Another Dream (Sri Lankan Tamil poems); Don’ Want Caste (Malayalam Dalit stories); and  101 contemporary Malayalam poems under the title How to translate an earthworm. The poems here are from his recent collection The Bullet Train and other loaded poems.

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