Friday, April 17, 2015

Swar Thounaojam 'A sentry converses'

So it appears that I haven't posted a poem in some days. This must be remedied.

I was on twitter when Swar tweeted about the Indian army molesting women in newly-under-AFSPA Arunachal Pradesh, when I remembered her poem from a Guardian poetry workshop some years ago.

Also, that workshop happened to be about writing letters and my poetry prompt last month at The Sideways Door was about letters unsent on never received. 

Finally, that workshop was by Kate Clanchy, whose book Meeting the English sounded interesting (but I found I couldn't finish it. I am thinking of giving up my library membership altogether, since I never seem to begin or finish the books I borrow.)

Enough of coincidences; they have nothing to do with the poem, which I've always found powerful. 

           A sentry converses 

           by Swar Thounaojam
Ibungo, how is your urn?
Does it still hold you?

First they put a garage over you
Then a plot of chives and shallots
Now it is a tea stall
and underneath the bench, on which I sweat sipping my tea,
is you - 14 months old and gone for 12 years.
Your mother cried she gave you the greater love.
So good you and your brother
were such unthinking children
and that you died.
Loud, unlike love is such drivel to grow up with.
You were too young to know you had a big head.
So let me tell you - you had a gigantic head
and never cried.
First, people said you were a good-natured child.
Then you became too odd - a never-crying child.
You were shown to doctors, who showed
you were wrong somewhere.
They were about to fix you properly
When you just left.
I think of you often,
wishing you were my real brother:
I could have claimed your death as my valid sorrow
and rig people to explain
my unsound quiet with it.
Now I will beat my heels,
right where the spade struck first to bury you.
There, can you hear it?
Ibungo, you never grew up to know me.
But remember this is your Che, your big sister,
Guarding your life.

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