Kashmir: The Museum of Little Things — A Poem by Daaniyal Hassan
June 03, 2020

The history of a peoples besieged by war is one felt close at home by many in Kashmir and beyond. Daaniyal Hassan’s poem connects that history to one known more widely, placing the subject of his six-part poem on an intersectional map between the violence of power and the resistance of the people. Entrapped in such a cartography and its “Museum of Little Things”, a poetic voice finds overlaps within a common experience, where a collective memory retrieves pages lost to dust. Regardless of the many historical references that may elicit some sort of comparison, the poem centers around a distinct poetic figure narrating a particular experience, like a Dante stuck in Inferno, far exiled from the ever-elusive Paradiso (made such with great purpose and design).

I

In Kashmir
I see Auschwitz
on the banks of Gupkar Road.

A lily of white bandage nurses
the injured pavement.

In ever-seasoned Cashmere frost
Treblinka II is not a glacial Residence.

There, warmth gathers skin
from live deodar wood
in the fireplace.

Each day,
a Himalayan womb breaks
into a wasteland
for graveyards.

Mother says,
"Jackboots are raining in this city,
choking every street
with squashed slippers of nylon
left behind in potholes
of cracked tar.

“These are the remains
of the escaped feet,

the naked feet
chased by burning metal."

She goes searching,
with a tattooed camp number
on her bare arm

—there are no roads to walk,
around the barracks—

searching for a familiar scream,
or a trace of it.

The asphalt melts
by the gates of paradise
—''Stille macht frie!"

Silence sets you free!—
where the gatekeeper barks
in a Nazi tongue,
carrying a bundle of knee bones—
"Aus! Aus!''

 

II

Mother keeps going
from Miskeen Bagh to Gogoland,

until every censored name
is a news broadcasted,
consuming her physiognomy.

That shadow of the ghetto
is a royal residence.

Camouflaged custodians linger
by the lake's ghat,

filtering congealed nights of geranium
through the sky-piercing muzzle.

In Shivpora,
the Raven's Reich
lays siege of open corridors.

This is a sanitarium of saints.

In the coldest quarters
of the curfewed city
is a home draped in frost,
where they breathe, still,
amid hand-knotted wefts of Persian yarn,
mourning for the Disappeared hands
no longer there to tie the thread.

The Kal Baffi looms
—awaiting the carpet craftsmen—
set for a Tabriz and Isfahan layout,
weaving distance and oblivion.

Yet everyone is dragging puffs of air
into their fogged lungs
from Night's unprepared vigil.

Amid the frigid thighs of morning’s siege
cold winds bite the palms and toes
of fisherwomen, damp
in hyacinth and moss.

This is a sanitarium of saints
where the gas-choked Sufi
screams in every language voiced
beyond language.

The thin-skinned memory
—nested by burning Lead Shots—
echoes of Hamadan and Jilan.

 

III

Every Muharram
Zainab's lament
escapes my memory;
freshly terrorized.

In Shariefabad
—where the Sind lapses
into the Jhelum,
along with borrowed olive vests
and the armored Voice of Hills,
retrieved—
the mourners forget
previous elegies.

(knelled in a hollow
choir of crashing
arms to the chest)

Yet a new lament reverberates,
from the Crematorium camp
—once you are inside the iron tank,
the only way out is through
the chimney to God’s consoling kiss.

This is Himmelstraße—
"The Road to Heaven"

The smoke in this memoir
is
of burning flesh.

In Eidgah, Mother meets a
woman after four years.
They don’t stop hugging
exchanging heads over shoulders
in a repetition of kisses,
landed on moist brows,
foreheads and furrowed cheeks
(of erstwhile mothers).

For all the other days
Eidgah is Janazgah,
a ground of funerals.

Near Dal Gate,
the houseboat that housed
wooden longings for tourists’ silhouettes
to bring in the daily bread
—for the boatman's attendant family—
was lapped in flames.

''You did not come for your beloved's funeral,
the Wake, lasting through the winter nights,
awaits your return.''

 

IV

The musicians’ heartstrings
have strum to the marches of death.

Their D-minor chords

—written on X-Ray paper—

will crack open,
through the iron ribs
of Birkaneu's orchestra

—performed at the foothills
by the sanitized walls of Hari Niwas—

and spread like sheets
on the waters of the Dal,
as rewritten on transparent ripples.

In Nishat Bagh,
Fenelon will return
to sing
—with Raj Begum
and the moaning violins of Auschwitz—

the poems, beaten to refrains,
and collected from the passing shrieks
—emitted from black holes—

of Haftchinar:

"Bin gar keine Indisch,
Iche Komme auch Kaschmir"

And sing,
the Treblinka guard's chainsong
"Das ist nich unser schiksal, mein Freund!"
This is not our destiny
"Yi naa chuy ne soun  taqdeer yaaro!"

 

V

Before occupation,
my country was a lake.

(Rum gayem sheeshes
begur go baane meyon)

Now, as the lorries come across
the glass mountains of the South,
my apple cart is an ambulance.

 

VI

When the Lotus eater gets tired,
watching for the disappeared breeze,
drinking quicksilver for water

from the vacant of Dal,
a certain voice
—an inflammable crescendo—
will blast and shower
amid Chowks
and streets.

On Zabarwan,
she will climb her last leg to freedom,
across the electric fence.

And the Kingfisher pegged on a staff
as its red heart dips down the oar,
will also join the chorus
—no longer a dulcet—

of floating marches
and market of roses.

This is the buoyancy of freedom
—rising against the depths of darkness—
a Navroz, a day bright...

Where the graveyard
was sold in winter
under knee-deep snow,
they will name all the graves green,
and compose wind movements
—like a fluttering ode—

for flags in a city
not curfewed anymore.

''The narcissus wakes up
opening explosive eyelids
by the watered grave
of a child still to be born,
the grave of an undelivered womb”

A pregnant grave will bear
the promised flower.

Let plant our inherited instruments
in paddy fields.
And listen,
listen,
to the growing resistance,
sprouting golden laces
on tomorrow's collar bone.

And let bloom
the Gul-e-Khandaan
in the Bard's courtyard.

Till then, let no one
wash your walls,
to intended white.

(For in this country—already at war—hush!
Remember,
white cannot stand for peace,
but surrender)

—Daaniyal Hassan, November, 2018

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About the Contributor

<a href="https://www.inversejournal.com/author/daaniyalhassan/" target="_self">Daaniyal Hassan</a>

Daaniyal Hassan

Daaniyal hails from Kashmir and is currently pursuing the study of English literature at University of Delhi. He usually draws poems from his conflict-torn homeland. Once in a while, he participates in poetry recitations and slams across Delhi University colleges. His poetry has appeared in the Muse India Journal and Kashmir Lit.

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