This Silence is a Lie — Three Poems by Marriah Nayeem

Feb 23, 2020

On this day commemorating Kashmiri Women’s Resistance, young poet and research scholar Marriah Nayeem brings us three poems like glimpses of life in Kashmir captured in the verses of a polyphonic poetic voice that traverses multiple generations of women. When Mikhail Bakhtin refers to “heteroglossia” as the “coexistence of varieties” and variations in a “diversity of voices, styles of discourse, or points of view” within a “singular linguistic code” (i.e. the literary work itself), one is compelled to think of the many ways in which Kashmiri women as young as adolescent girls and young women in their twenties are pushed towards an enduring wisdom attributed to the generation of their mothers and grandmothers. Such an occurrence is due, perhaps, to the harsh realities and struggles that encroach upon life in Kashmir, where children grow up without an experience of childhood attributed to other places around the world that are not struck by conflict and war.

On this day commemorating Kashmiri Women’s Resistance, young poet and research scholar Marriah Nayeem brings us three poems like glimpses of life in Kashmir captured in the verses of a polyphonic poetic voice that traverses multiple generations of women. When Mikhail Bakhtin refers to “heteroglossia” as the “coexistence of varieties” and variations  in a “diversity of voices, styles of discourse, or points of view” within a “singular linguistic code” (i.e. the literary work itself), one is compelled to think of the many ways in which Kashmiri women as young as adolescent girls and young women in their twenties are pushed towards an enduring wisdom reserved for the generation of their mothers and grandmothers. Such an occurrence is due, perhaps, to the harsh realities and struggles that encroach upon life in Kashmir, where children grow up without an experience of childhood attributed to other societies around the world that are not struck by conflict and war. The intensity that characterizes the depth found in verses such as these, coming from a young woman poet, in turn elucidates the severity of life's circumstances that the young and old of Kashmir are confronted with, generation by generation.

THIS SILENCE IS A LIE

When I was a kid
I disoriented a newspaper page once
that read in scarlet letters,
"SCHOOL GIRL MOLESTED BY ARMY PERSONNEL"
to hide it from my father
afraid he might just not bear such news.

When I was growing up
I fought for the remote with my brother
to dodge his mind from the TV channel
that flashed in brief, again and again
"ARMED FORCES OPEN FIRE ON PROTESTERS, 17 KILLED, DOZENS CRITICAL"
scared that he too might leave in rage
and never return.

When I fell in love at eighteen,
he was a rebel for a boy
who yearned to free his land
like a guerrilla warrior.
So I talked of leaving this vale
because I couldn't envisage my future with him,
frightened to death
that he might be the next
to fall to the rain of bullets.

And screaming,
that is how I used to wake.

And then I was a mother
I'll skip that part,
because tragedy speaks of tragedy itself
and only a cry comforts cry.

But when I place my hand
on my writhing chest,
calm, calm, calm it is,
filled with silence before the tempest.

This silence is a lie,
I swear,
THIS SILENCE IS A LIE!

 

FOR YOU—

I have an eidetic memory,
it is synchronous to death.
How could you just leave?
Knowing I would still be here
your remembrance is the enslavement
I've entitled upon myself.

Beloved! My soul is in pieces,
in what shrine do I tie its knots?

I remember you—
but your face is a blur.
My memory aches
from having to hold on too tight
to that final glimpse
and that smile.

And that wordless goodbye,
it is a misery like no other
but one I can't do without.

In the barrenness of my arms,
and this infidelity of my soul,
your blurred face is a balm:
it numbs the abandonment for a while.

And wherever I go
I carry you along.
Remember those street ends
where you would fool around?

I buried you,
again and again—
in my heart once,
in my soul twice,
and in my memory—
every once in a while.

Not one
in a million faces
is alike to yours,
trust me, I know,
I've really looked around.

I remember you—
with no name
no coffin, no epitaph on a grave
no eulogies, no slogans, no grace.

Just there—
dangling between the deceased and the yearned,
alone— with no one to claim you.

 

PEOPLE KINDEST IN LIFE, ARE THE CRUELEST IN DEATH

I have been brave
in loving you.
Braver still
in letting you go.

But, I'm on my knees
in front of your memories.
And like a hostile God
they will not move
give me room
to collapse and fall.

They just keep me hanging
on a death row
as I keep choking
on your name,
with this dumb mistake
to scratch it in my veins.

Faith moves mountains,
you would say.

Is a body so small
fit to carry a much heavier heart?

A tender touch, a gentle life
negates not absentee wrongs.

I can almost see you there,
almost—is a cruel word—
sitting across
with a light shake of the head.

My love,
choking while breathing
is not dying
but it is a death enough—
People kindest in life, are the cruelest in death.

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About the Contributor

Marriah Nayeem was born and raised in Srinagar, Kashmir. Currently a PG research scholar at SKUAST-K (Shalimar), she has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. She derives inspiration from the works of Pablo Neruda and Mahmoud Darwish, among many others. In the future, she wants to better her poetic writing, read good books, reach out to people and become the caregiver of an adorable puppy.