This special issue entitled “Verses of Lament and Dissent” brings together the first batch of poetry by eight poets from multiple cultures, from Kashmir to India, Nigeria and the US. Each poem in its unique way evokes feelings and reflections that resonate with people all across the planet in one way or another. In the context of Kashmir, the current environment of toxicity that has seeped out from all ends in several places has led to an absurd claim that what is happening in India is its “Kashmirization.”
This claim, flawed as it is dangerous, entails a collective admittance (attached to a collective conscience) that what has transpired in Kashmir (and what Kashmiris have been subjected to throughout) has been widely acceptable in the Indian imagination (for decades). It is only now an issue because the patterns of abuse manifest in various locations across India revealing that collective admittance that what Kashmiris have faced (was and) is acceptable as long as it happens there, and not in a close proximity. That sort of normalization is extremely disturbing especially when coming from (liberal and/or Leftist) Indians who at times have shown solidarity for the difficult conditions imposed on the Kashmiri population.
As this special issue in our poetry section is aptly titled “Verses of Lament and Dissent,” the poems emerge from a place of solidarity, a quality that the poets unfold through their versified expression of grief, despondency, lament and dissent from within their respective cultures. In some cases, the poets broaden their poetic gaze to express solidarity towards people unrelated to them by origin or background.
This poem by Muhammad Nadeem expresses the grief felt Kashmir-wide when state troopers trampled over and beat to death eight-year-old Sameer Rah on August 2, 2010 when he went to purchase candy at a local shop in his neighborhood of Batmallo in Srinagar.
CANDY IN HIS TINY FISTS
Memorize new songs to be sacrificed
for an eight-year-old martyr
clutching sweets and candy in his tiny fists.
The blood of Sameer was
buried in the rootless rocks
crushed dead by soldiers’ boots.
Memory will weigh heavily around history’s neck,
a tiny corpse spat blood and candy.
On his way home
his moon ringed,
his eyes won’t show the road to the stars anymore
blooming bloodstains hang in the dark night now.
No hands can hold their grief together
to pray for peace anymore,
at such a price?
No, please, no more!
Muhammad Nadeem is a reader and writes about what he reads. Among his writings are reviews, poetry and short stories. He also works with translation and criticism and has previously been published in Prachya Review Journal, Cafe Dissensus Magazine, KashmirLit Journal, Oracle Opinions, Greater Kashmir, Free Press Kashmir, Kashmir Reader, Kashmir Life, Kashmir Pen, Kashmir Vision among other reputed literary newspapers, magazines and journals. His reading interests are diverse and he has reviewed hundreds of books for literary magazines. He has been the Managing Editor of Captured Illusions Magazine and currently edits his own Monthly Print and Online Literary Magazine: Harmukh (www.harmukh.co).
According to Kabir Deb, a young poet from Assam, the following “poem is about the horrors of a failed democracy” that has “dug its claws into solidarity and revolution.” The poem is equally about the crushed dissent of those who seek equal rights and the silence enforced on the poets who write about them.
On those peaks, a leopard reigns over
looking through the falling white snow.
With the hope of not looking at some poacher,
he stands wiping his black cosmos rinsed clean.
He is an observer of the evolved species.
Often does he remain confused of the changes
between the constructed barbwire and the barricades,
where nothing is evolution, rather a solid convolution.
His eyes have an image of the blueprint
where some Gregorian calendar
is marked by darkness on the dates,
blue papers with white chalk strokes
draw a sky over those who cannot see and fly.
Reflection is a twisted truth, but the truth
is a book to be read, re-read to have a castle
where the rationalists could declare God as dead
and find death standing to greet them with a smile.
He sees a plan made by some chair holders
where their hammers break homes into columns,
the same instrument builds a huge prison hall
as blood rolls like marbles of the road.
Clothes dry in the wires, selected clothes
find people eating behind their wooden doors.
Others sit in winter dividing breath into sections
for the world has got too many cold hearts alive.
Papers get stitched to not-be-read as different
and if read, they are placed on a cross as an example
from where the earth is seen of one colour only,
the painter is sought but what one gets is a mere crook.
The plan further runs to a goliath-like tome
through which iron nostrils seduce the tolerance,
one can see human hearts getting more blood
to dispose their sweat over some crude uranium.
Human figures release the unheard promises,
the leopard listens to all of them like an old monk,
dipped in hunger and hopelessness, their disciples
have a clock in their home which has no time.
Overrated actions have a museum for them
where the word ‘sedition’ hangs over a cemetery,
few miles away their gutter is full of resistance
some poets have plates with rats on them.
So the plan is a simple one: to have chaos,
to have racists deployed over the field,
the best teachers here teach about the best maniacs,
maybe the plan is to give death to every anarchist.
Kabir Deb is an author, poet, editor, content writer based in Karimganj, Assam. He works as a teacher in a government institution and has completed his Masters in Life Sciences from Assam University. His works have been published in various national and international publications like Different Truths, Kaafiya, Counter Currents Magazine, Spillwords Magazine, India Today, Sahitya Akademi, etc. He works as an activist and is involved in writing about human rights, with his poetry reflecting on oppressed people. He loves to write about women and considers himself a vocal feminist. Currently, Kabir is a content writer for Counter Currents magazine. He was awarded with a social journalism award in 2017 for being vocal about human rights violations. In 2019, he was awarded with the prestigious Reuel International Poetry Award as the best upcoming poet.
In Sameem Javeed own words, the following poem “is a manifestation of the spiritual angst experienced by someone who yearns for the comforting embrace of home.” The young poet further explains the inspiration for his short yet emotive verses: “being away from home, which has been isolated and cutoff from the world, feels like a betrayal. The dark imagery of the poem could be seen as an outcome of a worldview in which home has been kept at the margins and roots have almost been forgotten.”
A POEM ON YEARNING
I lay stretched
on a torn mattress
besides a shoe rack
a broken cup
A vast silence;
I hear a pulse throbbing
in my ears.
I smell death
in the puff
of a cigarette;
in the shape of
hanging on doors.
nestles in it
of snow smeared
a flickering flame,
the light of which
Who lies buried
amid a mess
or under the
of the Jhelum
into an artefact
of bones and moss.
“the grass opens
with sure fingers
of his skull”
My home is sad,
my hands clinging,
Sameem Javeed Studies literature at Jamia Millia Islamia.
A reader in English, he prefers reading Dostoyevsky, Kundera, Kafka, Lorca and Neruda. Poetry comes to him amid sessions of reading.
Yashasvi Gaur writes the following poem keeping in mind “the present times that are crumbling our faith and hope in everything.” Her verses are a direct and unapologetic reflection of the circumstances unfolding in the Indian Subcontinent as she, along with many others, sees them.
Hate knocks at our doors,
unannounced with systematic jargon
like robots cramming sentences.
Our televisions spill hatred,
our food is mixed with the spices of it
Now we see families breaking apart
choosing sides picking up lines.
There’s bitter anguish mixed with the cold of December.
Did our hearts grow cold too?
Universities are sites of explosions now,
places where students used to
discuss, debate, and delve deeper.
There’s hate like unseasonal rains
in lands already flooding with curfews.
Assam, Meghalaya, Kashmir, Delhi, Mumbai, Aligarh, Bengal,
all clothed in resistance
and other places
that the media is missing to cover
because cameras are weapons
sometimes used to oppress people,
other times to fight the system.
So shall we twist the hate and
decorate it rather with songs and flowers of love?
Yashasvi is a research scholar in Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Although based in Kolkata currently, she yearns for a ‘home’ and a lost sense of belongingness. Literature and insanity keeps her sane while she remains deeply embossed in poetry, pain, and pleasure. Coming from Bikaner, a small town in Rajasthan explains her long lethargic battle to smash and stand tall against patriarchy. Travelling places and swapping apartments taught her about the bitter truths of life. She is among those people who linger for finding meaning in the little things. Writing is like breathing for her, which she explains ‘sometimes come out in fragments, while sometimes like an incessant puddle of emotions after a long hefty morning run’. She writes about simple arenas of life and how it unfolds into myriad philosophies. Her writing contains a dialectic relationship between what we are and what we want to be. Her last short story was published in an anthology by Half Baked Beans.
Malik Aabid presents a “poem dedicated to cages, captivity and yearning.” These three are accompanied or matched by hope, perseverance and struggle as the young poet’s verses elucidate.
Humans are like birds
I often doodle in my head
We value freedom
And we desire to fly
You can’t take prisoners
of free spirits, ever
They remember their country,
The land from whence they came;
Free as the forest, and sweeter
than Trehgam’s honeycombs
The joy of our land
Mirth in our veins
Someday the fetters shall come off
Window set wide
And we shall step into the freedom
of sunlight outside
Answers will pop
for a million questions you ask
I know why the caged bird sings,
Someone said a long time ago
I think I know too.
Malik Aabid is a student of Human Rights at Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia. Hailing from Kashmir’s pristine Trehgam area, he is a nature lover, who writes poignant poetry and enjoys English literature. He occasionally publishes his writing in the Kashmiri press.
Linda B. Scanlan writes this poem as “Letters from the Battlefield in Kashmir,” reflecting on the struggles of Kashmiris in the valley all the way from her homeland in the United States. Her verses of solidarity confirm the veil of enforced silence imposed on Kashmir “where shock and despair linger like fog.”
LETTERS FROM THE BATTLEFIELD IN KASHMIR
Man’s inhumanity toward humankind
offensive to God and the angels
on full display at the site of the mass grave
where holy bodies rest forever
blanketed in the soil of their beloved land.
They say one thing is worth dying for:
Azadi the first word spoken
the buried are silent
their pain relieved
now the Valley is riddled with muffled screams
barely heard as echoes in the cold mountain air
where shock and despair linger like fog…
Linda B. Scanlan
Linda B. Scanlan is a humanitarian and political activist committed to exposing the crisis in Kashmir through the powerful medium of poetry. Linda is a retired therapist who resides in Florida, USA.
Young poet Samuel Junior Irusota from the Edo State of Nigeria brings us a haunting poem burdened by death, destruction, perseverance, hope and the lack thereof.
HERE WE ROMANCE DEATH WITH OPEN HANDS
Here, parents go to bed with no hope
of seeing their children in the morning.
Here, everywhere you go, all you see is a basket of bones.
Here, children are left homeless and defenseless
with no hope of seeing the sun.
You do not want to be ripped apart by sounds of AK-47 riffles,
you do not want to be eaten by the news from the radio and the television.
Father went in search for food and never returned
and Mother she went in search of shelter and was hit by a stray bullet.
Amina, my sister, was raped to death by a gang of terrorists.
Abu, he was praying in a mosque and he died in a blast…
Here, we romance death with open hands.
Yet, every day we learn to live in broken dreams
hoping that the dawn births a better tomorrow
where we can all live in peace.
Tell me, where can we sleep with our two eyes closed
while keeping the hope of a new dawn awake?
Samuel Junior Irusota is a multiple award winning poet, author and lawyer. He is the author of A Boy’s Body is War (a collection of poems). He recently won the Clash of Pens Poetry Contest 2019 and is a co-winner of the Poets in Nigeria (PIN) Food Poetry Contest 2018. His works have appeared in and are forthcoming in Praxis Magazine, Tuck Magazine, Indian Periodical, Kalahari Review, Journal Nine, among several others. He believes that poetry is a craft that can change the world. He writes from the Edo State in Nigeria.
Omair Bhat presents his poem “If It Were for Evenings to Search for the Lost Boys” that binds the present time with the past in a continuum of killing and disappearance that has exasperated even Kashmir’s evenings into screaming out the name of freedom.
IF IT WERE FOR EVENINGS TO SEARCH FOR THE LOST BOYS
If it were for evenings to search for the boys
who left for the rugged mountains,
in Kashmir, in my wounded country,
and returned home as martyrs one after another,
alive in their death.
If it were for evenings to travel to any wind
anywhere before moonset
and find them in this place
under the shade of pines
in unflinching peace.
If it were for evenings to walk with them in the forlorn woods,
stricken by the woe of silence,
till the last breath of the night.
If it were for evenings to hear them call out each other’s names
hear them laugh at the jokes they tell each other in whispers.
If it were for evenings to tuck them away,
in safety from informers of the police,
in the fragrances of autumn,
then winter, then spring, then almonds and so on.
If it were for evenings to search for the boys and find them
in this place in the dream of prophets transformed into noor.
If it were for evenings to say goodbye to them in the day
and attend their funeral at the dusk.
If it were for evenings to feel sad momentarily and cry.
If it were for evenings to return to nothing,
to rubble after the mayhem of the day.
If it were for evenings to console their mothers of their infinite loss,
wouldn’t evenings go raving mad?
Wouldn’t evenings not crawl into oblivion anymore?
Wouldn’t evenings rather shape into frightening shadows
and hover over the occupation
like an apparent thought of a horrible death?
Wouldn’t evenings hold the barrel of a gun
and declare a final war against tyrants
announcing “now, no more of your oppression,
get out of my home!”?
Wouldn’t evenings rewrite our history
give it flesh and blood men and women
earth and heaven
for threading the struggle for freedom
through the eye of a needle
and weaving it into a new dawn?
Wouldn’t evenings try all the war criminals
for the all the crimes committed against us so far?
Then, perhaps then, they’d not search
for the boys in the woods anymore.
Then, the lost boys, alive in their death,
would come home and celebrate victory
after how many wars?
Then, the evenings would walk back
and relish a sunset on a window
looking out into a river then,
then they would fade into the night
and settle down quietly.
Omair Bhat thinks of himself as a memory keeper. His poems have previously appeared in Critical Muslim, The Sunflower Collective, Celebration, Cafe Dissensus and Kashmir Lit. In his free time, Omair reads poetry from all over the world while researching international poets and their writings. He is currently finalizing a manuscript of his first book of poems.