The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

Poems inspired by Kanhaiya Kumar’s speeches and writings

Photo: DNA India

By Sabyasachi Nag

What’s Azadi?

You can leave me stranded in the dark tunnel
Push the last inch of my head into dirt
Twist your steel toes, leave a mark
I promise I shall return, new and fierce –
I am Azadi.

You can shred me into million pieces,
Throw my ashes to nor’westers,
Bury me in the dead river bend
I promise I shall return, new and fierce –
I am Azadi.

You can chain my tongue, take my skin
You can push me out my own shadow
You can stake your claim on my soul
I live outside – I shall return, new and fierce –
I am Azadi.

You are not a thing – you have forgotten
You can’t be broken – you have forgotten
You have no limits, you can never die –
You have forgotten, I live outside, I shall return
New and fierce – I am Azadi.


Who’s Left?

Mother in a morgue keeping the dead preserved.
Man on wheelchair looking at a flight of winding stairs.
Boy smiling from a pile of unwashed dishes
Just do it – emblazoned on his chest.
Farmer playing with a sachet of zinc phosphide.
Men waiting under a hot sun for a chance to wet their hands
On that axe that will scoop the harsh earth out its cradle.
Lovers shamed under a bright neon.
Girl under a pile of crushed PET bottles licking an ice ball.
Boy balancing a bike tire with a baton.
Groom on a rickety white horse; a band of men
In shiny red uniform pouring their lungs in a shiny saxophone –
Look at their faces. Who’s left is what’s left out?
Boy pinned to a tin bucket about to be lowered
Into a borewell to check the water depth.
Farm hands chasing a field rat –
Their shadows lost in cracks on the parched weft.
Woman selling fireworks that promises incessant rain.
Eunuch spreading wings inked on the shoulders
Flung apart and buff naked.
Who else must I out? Who’s left is what’s left out?


Are You A Patriot?

Don’t ask. Look at the calluses in your hands.
Look how hard you worked. How far you’ve come.
You know it in your heart.

When a farmer enters his field –
Chest open, flared nostrils, face tilted toward the sky
Does he remember the scars under his skin?

When a house-help teaches her son
The fine art of knotting the tie
Does she stop her heart worrying if the boy shall indemnify?

When a man climbs the dungeons down
The city’s armpit, to dig out dirt in dim light
What does he know of epiphanies?

When a mother hisses out the last goodbye
Toward the son who must square up the enemy’s gun
Who does she ask? Are you a patriot?

Look at the creases criss-crossing your eyes.
Look how well you read the map. How much can you love?
Don’t ask. You know it in your heart.


Who Wants Revolution?

After mist, the dirt road tears a bed of wild roses
Half ‘n’ half. Who wants revolution?
I want work.

When it’s pitch dark, the road is a diamondback
Flicking its tongue of light –
Level the ground. Make me equal.

Chi Chi – jaws taut – in one straight line, the wild –
Ringing with rattle songs. Who wants blood?
I want to be free.

Here, in the margins, I am tired being an after-thought.
Free me so I can love, pray, eat the way I want.
Never mind, even to be here, how hard I fought.

After rain comes the white sun.
Inside if there is no room, there’s shade out in the barn.
I want truth. Who wants to burn?

After rain, roses get new wings.
At a distance, the rattle-road pocked with footprints
Tire threads, glass and pollen rears up to meet me blind –

Halfway up the horizon, without terms, as though I were bird.
That’s the sky I want – looking straight at me.
I want to remember I too am bird.


What Shall We Do?

A farmer had four sons, you have heard this said before.
Whatever it is you do, don’t make projects from your pearls.
We are past the hour of crying.

The farmer asks for his sons, it’s time to die.
He says those things we too shall say, put your knives aside.
Whatever you do, don’t wait for the hour of dying.

If a tree falls in a forest, is it still a tree and forest?
When we are past the dark tunnel and you haven’t said a thing
Or travelled, is the same dark, same tunnel?

When you look yourself in the mirror
Is there anyone else looking back at you? Remember
What the farmer said, whatever you do, put aside your knives.

When you see the storm tearing bird nests
When you hear branches break – remember what the forest says.
Is it the same sky after, if you haven’t stood up to the storm?

** These poems are a transliteration of the original speeches, discourses, interviews and writings of Kanhaiya Kumar in Hindi.

Sabyasachi Nag is the author of two books of poetry: Bloodlines (Writers Workshop, 2006) and Could You Please, Please Stop Singing (Mosaic Press, 2015). His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in several anthologies and publications including, The Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, Contemporary Verse 2, Grain, Emerge Anthology, Perihelion, R.kv.r.y Quarterly, The Squaw Valley Review, The Rising Phoenix Review, Void and the VLQ. A native of Calcutta, India, Sachi lives in Mississauga, Ontario with his wife and son. He is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and a graduate of the Writer’s Studio at Simon Frazer University. He works in human resources and education.


Like Cafe Dissensus on Facebook. Follow Cafe Dissensus on Twitter.

Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.


Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Hatred and Mass Violence: Lessons from History”, edited by Navras J. Aafreedi, Presidency University, Kolkata, India.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: