Poetry | ‘Temple’ & ‘Dystopian’ | By Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih

Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s poems might well be the gliding end to this bouquet of with poems like Dystopian and Temple, where he takes you to a philosophical quest and leaves you there – right at the cliff.

Temple

Deep inside a pine forest,

we sought the mountain.

Between Sohpet Bneng, our holy mountain,

the afternoon rays filtering through the trees,

and the rufescent pine floor,

we had our temple.

I worshipped you again and again.

I made myself humble before you again and again.

I surprised you again and again.

Birds called from everywhere.

Their variety astonished me;

their calls filled me with sadness.

Trees were laid low everywhere.

How long have they got before they go?

And how long have we got, Nameri?

Like them,

people like us, 

always live on borrowed time.

Everything else was silent.

We spoke in hushed tones.

You inspired me into a range of emotions.

When I bowed down before you—veneration.

When I cleaned your feet—fulfillment.

When I held you in my arms—enchantment.

When our bodies touched,

I expected the tremors of the flesh.

How would I know you would fill me with stillness?

Happiness stunned me.

I felt drugged and drowsy.

I closed my eyes, and I saw 

all were dreams; all were visions.

Not once did I tremble with desires.

Such a one as you, I have never come across.

We spoke of the dangers facing us,

our bleak and hopeless world.

I thought of Trump and Bolsonaro

and all the enemies of the earth.

We spoke of Corona and your leaving.

And you wondered why I bent my head

and would not show you my eyes.

All through the evening,

only the noodles you cooked for me;

only the hand that reached for mine;

only the fear you were losing

and the love igniting in your eyes;

bolstered my confidence,

as I faced the world,

increasingly dystopian.


Dystopian

We groan under the weight of Corona 

the disruptions it has brought 

the fear it has instilled in every heart 

the cruelties surging from that fear: 

villages driving people coming home 

into the jungles

cities forbidding people to leave

people with no place to stay 

with no money and no food 

people walking for hundreds of desperate miles

people driven to suicide. 

The selfishness and the greed 

lurk in every shop 

in every street. 

The lockdown is a cure worse than the sickness. 

The fear is worse than the plague.

We may all be free from Corona’s fatal touch 

for 41 days 

but how will those without the means

be free from hunger, disease, starvation

for 41 days? 

The fear of getting sick is making people die.

Thieves and murderers will stalk the nights.

The cure is worse than the sickness.

Oh, I hate it, that is true, Nameri

and the worst thing it has done to me 

is to take you away from me.

And I don’t even know 

when you will return 

or in what frame of mind.

The nights are pitiless

they stare at me

I stare at them

and neither of us will ever know relief 

until you set us free again.

The silence it has brought 

into the streets 

the silence it has brought 

into the engines of commerce: 

I love the clear skies I can now see 

even in the dirtiest of cities.

Change is possible

we may yet save the earth 

Corona has shown us that.

And it’s not even as monstrous 

as some things I have known. 

If you are a poet in love with easeful death 

you would also embrace it if it comes.

Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih (Meghalaya, India) writes poems, drama and fiction in Khasi and English. His latest works include The Yearning of Seeds (HarperCollins), Time’s Barter: Haiku and Senryu (HarperCollins) and Around the Hearth: Khasi Legends (Penguin).

Poetry | ‘Portrait of a bastard’ & ‘On the way back’ | By Ajmal Khan

Ajmal Khan’s title ‘Portrait of a bastard’ made me sit up straight, where layers of racism from being Asian – the accent of a Dravidian governed more than religious divide, and yet the overlaps with ethnicity brought out an unpeeling of facades for the unison of humanity –same pain, displacement, ideas of home – made for an informed read.

Portrait of a bastard

Your collarbone protrudes like a Somalian Child
and the arm muscles anemic
but the Lungi, from the Malabar Coast. 

Texture of your skin is the mixture of Pulaya and Chandala
converted to Islam
sweat with a scent from Dubai, Abudabi or Muscat.

How can you speak English this well?
You guys rebelled against them
and boycotted their language.

How did you get this resilient yet deep eyes
and rage? Somewhat similar to Palestinians or Kashmiris —
You weren’t occupied.  

Your chin remotely resembles
a clever North Indian Bania man
that disappears like a mirage.

They murmur, you are a bastard
in the confluence between the Arabian Coast
and the Malabar before Portuguese and Dutch mastered maritime. 

***


On the way back 

Staring at stars, cosmos and beyond
We went to colleges and universities like curious children
following constellations.
Some of us – the only one of our kind
The rest had something similar – their surnames, parent’s jobs
Or the names of the cities they hailed from
The kind of dress they wore, the way they spoke English
The brands of cigarettes they smoked and the scent of their sweat. 

Some dropped out
Few missing
Others came home as dead bodies like Shambuka
Those survived were picked up and
the remaining-untouchables in the job market
On the way back to the village
The road is long with the heavy burden
of degree certificates. 

***

Ajmal Khan’s poems have appeared in the Muse India, The Bangalore Review, The Sunflower Collective, and Firstpost among others. His poems also appeared in anthologies such as GOSSAMER: An anthology of contemporary world poetry by Kindle Magazine and recently in the ‘100 poems are not enough’ by Walking Bookfairs and Macmillan.