Abhimanyu Kumar

Abhimanyu Kumar: My Shia Heart, To Right-Wing America, I Am Your Poet, Abraham’s Lament, No More Talk of Trees

My Shia Heart

to Mir Basit Hussain

Ultimately, we only fail ourselves
like the tree that promised to lift the sky
on its fragile branches
spread out like begging palms
at the dargah of the Nizamuddin Aulia
where you go to forget
and be forgiven

the sweetness of being
restored the trembling of the flesh
halted the daily poison

let it begin anew this time
with reproaches carved into the architecture
of the day like calligraphy in an unknown script
on the minarets of medieval ruins

My Shia heart longs for
sacrifices, for brutal degradation
and self-flagellation like on Muharram
My soul trapped in the desolate castles of
Alhambra, Sevilla, Granada,
and in Malaga where I saw teenagers
in school uniform exchange a bold kiss
near the Albert Camus square.

Scatter my ashes in the Seine
near the Rue-de-le-coeur
My only country was the heart
my only currency pain

Consider this my will
when I am gone
Divide my possessions
equally amongst
the sky, the earth,
the sea and the mountains and
pardon me my French.

To Right-Wing America

The bitter fruit has
Ripened. It has mutated and
Become a faceless beast drunk on the wine of its ignorance.

Cerberus does not
guard the gates of hell
anymore. It has a new power: it turns into hell whichever space it inhabits.

He is the new Lord of the Underworld
Having turned all lands into one.

With his three mouths he devours
Liberty, equality and fellow-feeling.

The snakes on its back scream murder
And mayhem, its tail bites with its forked tongue all that is noble in the world.

Only another Hercules can tame it and return it to where it belongs: the people together, always victorious.

I Am Your Poet

after Ramashankar Vidrohi, teacher, and friend

I am your poet
I am the wind coursing like blood
through the blue veins of the sky
I am the trees that lift up the sky
on their shoulders looking down
on our pesky adventures
with contempt
I am the intimate whisper between
old friends, the sly wink between young
lovers, the solidarity of sisters, the bond
between brothers, the innocence of rebellion,
the caress of a fragrance,
I am the gap
between Being and Nothingness, never filled
never totally empty
I am the substance,
and I am the subject.
I am the night in which all the cows
are black.
I am that which is exalted
and that which is humiliated.
I am the Self and I am
its Other.
I am the hand that grabs the throat
of the oppressor and brings his evil reign
to an end.
I am the labyrinth of time
in which we move from room to similar unfinished rooms
never leaving never arriving anywhere
always starting at the start again
which is never the start
as it used to be.
I am your poet.

Abraham’s Lament

“…how dreadful it is to march out to Mount Moriah,” Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard

For my niece Sarah

I wish to be dropped
Like a pebble under the lake
Sink to the bottomless pit
Put no pressure on the universe
By existing
Postpone the trip to Mount Moriah
Conceal from Sarah, conceal from Eleazar
The reason for the trip;
Tell nothing to Isaac.

With Ishmael I banished my soul to exile.
It roams in the desert since
Like an impending storm.

In me, the seed of all men. In my mouth, the taste of sand.
In my nostrils, the sickly-sweet smell of death. In my gnarled veins,
The sensation of a fatigue that outlasts eternity.

Postpone the trip to Mount Moriah
Conceal from Sarah, conceal from Eleazar
The reason for the trip;
Tell nothing to Isaac.

No More Talk of Trees!

(After reading Bertolt Brecht’s To Posterity)

I wish to talk to you about injustice, but
you tell me about trees, and plants.
I too like them – I love to look at the light falling
through yellow Amaltas leaves in mellow
unending afternoons
or when they fall on the side of
Amrita Shergill Marg abutting Lodhi Road,
like lush carpets
laid out for a visiting dignitary
This city abounds in old trees
that dot its streets like old family retainers
standing stoically on the sidelines of
all the shameful scandals but carrying the secrets
to their graves.
Nevertheless, I am not interested in talking
to you about trees – there is a time and
place for that, and it is not today.
(I hope that time comes someday but I fear
it will be many years before that happens.)
Till then I request you to cut out the talk
about trees: there are people being lynched on the
streets and then left to hang from trees
their bodies red like flaming Gulmohar flowers
children being taught to
spout poisonous verses, bodies of young men maimed
and blinded under the pretext of national security (like Pash, I too wish to throw up in the air anyone’s cap who talks to me
of national security,)
workers walking like corpses through purgatories
of shame and indignity, farmers
being swallowed whole by the ground opening up
under their feet.
Till we put this right, I request you:
no more talk of trees!
This, as you understand, is really no time to
talk of trees, (no matter how much
our university colleagues enjoy these expositions
during languid lunch-breaks.)
Leave the trees alone in their majestic, exquisite solitude –
they never needed us anyway for anything
least of all our insincere hosannas to them.
(The Amaltas will always be beautiful regardless of your praise).
Unless, of course, you have become
a tree yourself – unmoved by anything least of all
injustice. (Some tell me that is indeed
the case with you).

Abhimanyu Kumar is a journalist based in New Delhi. He has published a book of poems Milan and the Sea and another in translation. He edits the literary blog sunflower collective. He is currently working on another book of translation.