I Shall Die in Shillong

Tuhin Bhowal

I stand at the edge of the center square. Police Bazaar.

Quivering, no movements, just wriggling in angst.

 

Neither my fingers wobble nor my feet tremble. I cross eons with every step.
I’m cold down to my enamel. My bones have made a morgue out of your memories.

 

 

I see more heads than bodies slithering in and out—a canopy of human hair,

akin sunlight squinting through rainforests, I leap oceans on earth.

 

 

The government has been absconding stealthily behind lucrative schemes, banal promises, 
while rights burn like bonfires. When did freedom ever return from exile?

 

 

I have no home. Walls are annihilated. No room. No songs.

 

“Cemeteries can be warm too?” You had warned me about hearsay.
Black doors with yellow roofs, honk. Hearing is impaired in my homeland.
Tribal curses target me like surnames after attacks.
Death was only a brake away; the driver’s rage fits rational. My actions, however, are adulterated.

 

 

I stammer your name to hear him scream, “Roads lead to places, never people!”

How does one give an address to the avenue of abandonment?

“Sirens have rung. Rifles are loaded.” Life has a greater price than fares.

“Go! Flee! Stock up bread before you surrender to sleep.”

Cusses have turned into prayers.

“And take the left. Take the left.” Right. Right. Right.

I am a poet’s soul. Stupidity runs in our arteries, reminiscence—the bloodstream.

 

Guns reek more power when you’re not the one holding it.

Blood runs prettier when you’re the one bleeding.

Profuse­—my crimson trails, vermilion stains. Tonight, I am shot.

The time of my death but has always been a figure of the past.

I squirm and crawl to the cathedral, the church is on the horizon of my sight.

 

The priest greets my confessions with absence, sole witness, 
the Don-Bosco circle is to my wails of our sins.

 

A mile or two only now—the bend to your house.

I save my breaths like a miser peddler in drought, each one another chance at hope.

The last one I shall wheeze out at the temple of your foot.

Irony lurks around me invisibly like shadows on a moonless night,

hovers upon me like the twenty-first of June in January, like the last embrace of a long-lost lover.

 

There is a winter my cold arms hold which refuses to meet its spring.

 “I shall die in Shillong.” You had laughed off my truth.

 

You, you are here not but away in the search.

Promise me, lie, sweetheart, my eulogy will be short. For there will be none.

My casket is grand—upper lid, the north-eastern stars,

the bed, a carpet of garlands—yellow orchids from the garden.

Does your gardener still mourn monsoon?

 

They called me an extremist.

If my only guilt was love, then maybe my propaganda was war indeed.

 

My savings have been meager, lungs running out. Your name—their final chant.

The radio estimates casualties. Will you look up mine on the list of disappointments?

Don’t leave a corpse waiting for too long, darling. For your arrival, I will keep on.

 

My heart was a curfew declared at midnight.
You shouldn’t have dared to walk out on the streets at dawn.

2 comments

  • Beautiful and haunting. I especially loved the last lines of the poem. I’ll lie awake at night thinking about this piece.

    Alizeh
  • It’s only through poetry a poet can just talk perfectly about the wounds that are caused in the name of humanity. Great poem. An eye opener.

    Swapna Peri

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