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Asad Zaidi


Sisters


we have been reduced to coal said the sisters sinking into sand
cover us up now if you want we shall stop here you may go

the sisters kept visiting us during day changing appearances
we had fever in evenings
visiting even more heat upon our burning eyes the sisters would come like
curses into our delirious raving lives on roads overflowing with traffic
would hover over our heads like troubles
consoled the sisters would sometimes sit
the sisters stood guard in our wives’ dark pregnancies

the sisters would curse the thieves who take us by surprise stealing onions in the darkness at the back of hearths
the sisters were pleased to see the possibilities brimming with our happily going jobs

the sisters told the tales of fairies and dervishes to children
the sisters brought forests and beasts into their imagination
the sisters augmented what they had not seen
with gradual accretions of their wealth of ignorance.

“if anyone says ‘this fuel wood will not catch fire’ we shall not take it kindly
what for after all are we girls
how the fuel wood catches fire we know you know
we are fuel wood we girls
we shall give out smoke as long as we are wet
but what can we do about this? we are
the cooking pots of your home brother father

“mother look we are the cooking pots
our soot will be washed off
if it is not we shall become soot and grow, stuffing flaky tatters into our bodies
as long as wetness and taste do not go
we shall dry only at our own pace

“we shall wither we shall make fluttering noises in the stillness of the earth
in wind-holes on hearths during noons
we shall beat our bowls
do you kindly fill our bowls
water one can drink from drains you our people know
but grain one cannot find in cattle-dung heaps
do please fill our bowls

“we shall be as mere spiders in your world
we shall be spiders
we shall lie in any forgotten corner of the house with our webs pulled over us
we shall be spiders of dust-filled corners
we shall be dust
we shall be termites in the cracks of doors
we shall manage to live on the bottoms of boxes
we shall live on neem and lotus seeds
we shall chirp like crickets during nights
propping up the sleep of our people we shall be the crickets.”

we have become mere coal
said the sisters sinking into sand
become mere coal
said beaten with shoes
coal
sighing
the sisters sigh, “we are ashes –
ashes we are – the dust having risen shall settle on every forehead
layers of guilt shall cake in your eyes
on your neck a film of oil shall gather,
just see”

the sisters shall become grime one day
one day they will be removed from memories washed out with soap
except from knees and elbows

yet die they will not, but linger for centuries in homes

trampling on the sisters the world passes on
across life’s creaking bridge
trying to suppress somehow with downcast faces the screaming horns of families
and gloating over their blisters

one day when blood will be trickling down our noses
sinking into the earth
the saltish bodies of the lost sisters will rise from the earth’s folds
with their anchals dirtied with the mud of toil the sisters will come to stand around us
will want to save us with their dry roughened hands

many years will pass
so many that we will not be saved

Submitted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Edited: Friday, May 17, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

-

('Behnen')

Translated from Hindi by Rajesh Sharma

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