“Lady Jesus” and other poems by Arathy Asok

They ask me questions
I will not answer

They have come to ask of me,
Many answers they sought.

They did not look at my breasts,
Or between my legs.

It was my eyes,
And inside my head they probed.

They put out their hands
And broke open my skull;
They looked in to see
What thoughts I hid
Between the folds of my brain,
The slime, the blood, the people.

They wanted to know what it was from them
I was going to take,
Which were the hands I held,
What were the forests that I walked,
The words I nursed,
Like hot iron branded in my soul;
They look to see
What crowds were being formed,
That thought of the little raped girl,
The boy who wrote poems
And was jailed,
Of the pregnant woman
With the stillborn child in her lap.

And when they put back the pieces together
They looked to see
If I was one of them.
That was what they wanted
After all;
To know if I was one of them.

Or if I was the one
That stood outside their door,
With my fingers raised
In questions.


YELL

Gujarath.
You sting me still.

When they come out in the night
Their torn wombs hanging with dead children
Their shaven head branded with “OM”
Their vaginas split open
Their breasts bitten broken.
When he* walks around me
His calls unanswered, thrice,
When they torment him more
As he refuses to laud their country,
His fingers chopped,
Then his hands and feet
Dragged by the fork
Thrown into fire.

He lifts his hands to me.
They lift their hands to me.

I can see it coming
The saffron gods in their chariots.
I have to tell you then,
Before it is too late,
To think.
To think.

Histories of lies that you live with,
Mounds of forgetfulness you sleep on,
The world you think secure,
Lying under your booted foot;

I have to tell you.
It is your blood.
It is your blood.

Hang your heads in shame.
Carry the skulls from the farmers.
Walk with them they killed,
Walk with the landless,
Walk with them with bewildered eyes,
Who hide in dark corners.

Your children look at you
For answers. (*Ehsan Jaffri)


NO COUNTRY TO OWN

What will people do,
Who have no city to call their own?
Whose houses are four corners they turned,
When life took them.

What will such people do,
Who long to grow roots,
But who stumble when they see faces,
Trying to recollect
Each face from a dead memory
Memory that was not born, naturally.

What would such people do,
Who want to know what it is
To dwell under the same sky,
The same sunrises and sunsets,
A meal on the wooden table
At times in the sun,
And the evenings
A circle around the tea cup.

What would they not do to swing their hands,
In the alleys ways
Knowing for sure
The next corner they must turn?


STRANGER LOVES

You are another country
I ventured into.
Blank windows
That did not latch,
But opened into
Strange skies, unknown stars.
Yet when you smiled
The ocean was another day;
And I stepped blind
Dumb, dusted, worn.
The water crept into me
Lifting into you, waved
And I drowned.

Drowned.

When I rise,
The sky in my eye
Is the blue
You left behind. 


Lady Jesus

The doors are closed.
Even the windows.
No eyes blink.
I walk around the house once.
Twice. Then again.
I touch the walls to see
If they have broken.
A little hole, tiny,
Hiding from my eye
Through which I can look
Into the darkness inside.
But nothing.
The home has become a house.
She has died, rotting on the cot,
She who smiled at me like a wild gypsy,
And told me to hide love letters under the green leaves.
Without her the jackfruit tree is bald.
The fisherman does not look in.
Here again,
I wait for the wind
Under a sky
To carry some smell
That I missed
Which would pour
Water down my spine
Closing the hole they drilled,
On my hand
My feet
My breast.


SISTER WOMEN

Sister,
That mountain country you speak of,
Those women
The ones whose breasts
Were free,
Unrounded,
Hanging , lean, fleshy.
The ones whose feet were kept apart carelessly,
Who flung their hands
In wild abandon.
I see them sitting before you,
Cold tea between us.
There was no revolution, you said
No bloodshed
No foreign flags.
None.
I saw them
Dangling their feet,
Sitting on the rocky hill,
Looking into the blue sky.
And I saw their ankles,
Chainless, soft, pink
And soles, the soles of their feet
Where rough roads
Met
Violently fusing desires.
I saw them,
Sister,
I saw them laughing aloud
I saw the toothless gums
And the toothed ones
The wide-open mouths
The ringing echoing far away.
I saw them hold hands;
And your eyes, sister,
Your eyes,
That spoke of this dream
To be born at home.

 


Muslim, Rohingya, Three years

Sometimes there is a little bit of me sticking out like red meat.
The flies swarm around it.
I know there is rot spreading a little from the edges.
It started the moment I saw the little girl floating in the water.
A Rohingya, she floats from Myanmar to my doorstep,
When we are getting ready with the flower carpets.
Her face is bloated. Her eyes closed.

On her red dress, the butterflies are still alive, flitting on
the half-opened flowers.

She does not seem surprised.
Where are the others who walked with her?
The mother whose hand she left the moment the water took her in?
The sister she laughed with a moment ago?
The father she looked from afar?
The brother who carried her around?
The friends under the tree with whom she played before they came to kill?
I cannot see them. The water is cold where she floated bit by bit into my eyes.
Was she a Muslim? Was she Budha’s enemy?
I do not know.
The moment I saw her face I felt the rot spreading,
And now I am almost dead.
It is not the water. I know.
It is not the Buddha. I know.
I saw him close his eyes in prayers, like she had closed hers in death.

Lady Jesus and other poems © Arathy Asok, 


 

Arathy Asok’s debut collection Lady Jesus and Other Poems is described by the Journal of Commonwealth Literature as “Resistance poetry with a sharp edge” (2019, Vol. 54(4) ). She is a bilingual writer and was featured poet at The Blue Nib Magazine (Issue 37, Ireland). Her poems have appeared in national and international journals, in print and online (in Samyukta, Poetry Chain, anti-heroin chic, Poets in Nigeria, Blue Nib magazine, Door is Ajar, Womaword Press and Culture Cult). They are included in an Anthology called Native Petals, Nocturne and Iliyali (USA). Her short stories in Malayalam have appeared in Madhyamam Weekly and English short stories in Rupture (Pakistan), Credo Espire (USA) and have been translated to her mother tongue and published in Indian Express Malayalam Online.