violence enters a poem like a restless wind inside a burning house
Somewhere near the borders to a warless country
stands the house my grandfather built.
In the ground floor my parents live.
And now, tired by the day’s work, my mother
has already fallen asleep in front of the television.
My father is noiselessly setting up
the mosquito net above the bed.
During the day, the town is rife with revolution,
and they are dreaming of a new state.
They have licked the salt of freedom
and cannot unlearn the taste.
Someone I used to know gets shot
an inch above the ears in a cross-fire.
My mother imitates that foreign tenor people acquire
while breaking news of unfortunate deaths.
His blood is washed off the streets in the winter rain
and drained in the sewage that shares
the common filth of the two nations.
Tomorrow my father will cross the border as usual
and go to work for a bad-tempered man.
He has had it, mother tells me over the phone.
They need to get out of there, I think, but never say it.
The paranoia changes hands
as spring comes on early and I read on the papers
a nation is sending the refugees back to
the country they fled from.
On their way, they stop on their trails
to look for the frostbitten fingers
they lost in the difficult winter of their lives.
Happiness, he decides, is a purer form of nausea.
The universe is written in Braille
To be read only in the interludes.
By interludes he means the grace of summer rains.
The filth of the town guttering down the creek.
The trees suddenly dressed in the first green of Eden.
The light changing every second and no one noticing.
The moderation of the heart is in waiting alone
For the rapture to subside. Young Chopin
Weeping, listening to his mother play the piano
In the long Polish afternoons. It is in knowing that
The important joy, in fact, cannot be shared
At all. Is inconceivably private.
He thinks of the woman and the necessary grammar
Of estrangement. Somewhere an ocean beckons her.
She heeds but doesn’t leave. Yet her body inside a warm car
Moving farther away from him seventy kilometres per hour.
The sound of water, whether clear or murky, is the one
He remembers shimmering in the brooks, as a child.
Him falling asleep clutching the new pain in his fists
Growing more visible against the sound.
Learning the alphabets of longing a little too early.
There are seventeen laws of uncertainty in love,
He decides. He thinks of her body.
Of other bodies beginning to blur against hers.
Because the stubborn heart cannot make love twice.
RL POETRY AWARD 2013 Winner - 1 © 2013 Rohan Chhetri. First published by RædLeafPoetry-India 2013. Republishing Rights to be obtained from both the Poet and RædLeafPoetry-India 2013