A Man in Three Images

Alolika Dutta

A soldier, bare-headed, bare-footed, gunless, kneels on a praying rug.
His palms rest on his knees. His shoulders are open. The road is wide.

A family of migrants, covered in floral blankets, sleep on a pavement.
A metre away, many-coloured flowers rise from their beds.

A woman bends to feel the sand, dense as dough.
Clouds of water and smoke gather overhead.

Do you see? You do not. Poetry does not suffice. It never will.
You should have seen the soldier, the family, the woman.

You should have seen the man.

Words and the Rain

Karan Kapoor

A man and his child look us in the eye
A woman longs for water
after she crosses the border
through the sea

People, everywhere people,
many who have walked all the way
from their homeland
without a country are also people

A man and his child
look us in the eye, now and forever
And the man who captured them
all lie
under a neem tree,
silent, forever

Amid the clashes between
two armies
belonging to the same country,
he laughs
when a friend asks him,
“Take care of yourself”

He only wishes
to know
if it rained in Delhi

Since he died,
it hasn’t stopped raining in Delhi

A Photograph Stares at Me

Antara Rao

A face appeared in my dream last night,
yellow candles bowed to the wind
and set fire to a million pyres,
forever burning inside a magazine page.
A pair of eyes will always live inside a photograph,
stir me, and make me remember.
Truths are buried too often, too easily,
and to choose to look is a dangerous thing.
It is so easy not to – unless the dead look at you.
A refugee woman is still touching the shore somewhere,
she will touch it long after I am buried.
A face appeared in my dream last night,
it had eyes that chose to look,
eyes that wanted the world to not look away,
eyes that knock on the doors of my own,
and remind me to see.

‘A Delicate Task’

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

Documenting the deaths is a delicate task, balancing showing the human cost of the virus with preserving the dignity of the subject”: Danish Siddiqui, twitter, April 26, 2021.

It is no delicate matter when you follow
People walking between the
Open jaws of a beast. The earth offers nothing
To those who have nothing.

In his images, the earth is comforting
And indifferent to every death,
Water is unable to wash away the stain
On imaginary maps of blood,
Everything falls short of enabling life.

Because he did not stop for death,
It did not wait for him. Unable to bear him
Too close, death upturned the vehicle.
From the roads of Myanmar to the streets
Of Delhi, from the ghats of the Ganga
To the sands of Kabul, the earth is a desert
Of homeless birds deceived by mirages.

The earth where you dream
Of shelter, wakes up as a nightmare
At the mercy of clouds,
Where you die like a nameless pyre.

If his death is a punctuation,
Mark it as the pause, stall that moment
On the page where breath stops,
So that it can pick itself up again. And
If you read further, you find
A man has left behind his eyes.

Alolika Dutta is a poet based in Bombay. Her work has appeared in The Indian Quarterly, Nether Quarterly, Coldnoon, The Woman Inc., and is forthcoming in the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing.

Karan Kapoor’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Stride, The Indian Quarterly, GSA Imprint, One Sentence Poems, and other publications.

Antara Rao is a poet, writer and journalist, with a master’s in sociology.

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee is a poet, writer and political theorist. His latest book, The Town Slowly Empties: On Life and Culture during Lockdown, was published by Copper Coin in 2021.