We look for lines on the water. This water is the kind
that has forgotten to anchor the color of the sky on its skirt.
We had both heard stories: how in distant villages,
where the crow’s claw land stealths into the saline water,
women make up proverbs with the names of those
who were killed by the police. Women make these names
into work songs whose rhythms they use to husk rice. These
names are weaved into the quilts they use to keep themselves warm.
But those are just that. Stories. Inside the soles
of our shoes, we have the secret:we do not know
what it feels to hold the rice saplings in our own fingers.
What it feels to dig our toes in mud that grows.
For us, this river dried into a canal into a string.
For us, these banks where children live in cardboard wall roofs.
For us, this sewage water and its storehouse
of unnamed corpses. For us, this broken bridge: a step at a time.
What we have, though, are this parchment paper,
pieces of the sky, pencils and this knowledge. Offerings,
of blood do not suffice for the seedlings to bud. We have
all the time on our fingertips, while the neighborhood boys
are galloping away. Some are riding their kites. We,
two sisters stay behind. Tombur drawing an atlas
of this town. Without leaving anything out. I giving
stories to the unnamed corpse. Mostly we do not
go anywhere, but when we do, we can close our fists
around somethings: glass shards from window panes,
a shred or two of the scarlet kites the neighborhood
boys are riding. And, we main them. Maim those
things, make them forget how to draw blood from skin,
set them to the task of storing locked mysteries.
1. Bipradas Pipilai was a 15th century Bengali poet.
2. Subir, Saral, and Bidya are the names of three young men killed in police “encounters” during the historic Naxalbari uprising in West Bengal, India in the late 1960s and 1970s.
3. The italicized lines in the poem have been borrowed from Barbara Jane Reyes and Chris Abani.