By Ishrat Bashir
Quiet of a Mother
Today marks the 57th year of the nineteenth century
My People have made their choice
Some have chosen life over death
Some have chosen quiet to cages
Yet others have chosen the cross and sepulchre
My children ask me, “Mother, have we chosen peace?”
“Yes! We have chosen /pi:s/,” I assure them.
I too have made my choice.
I won’t bring up my children with
“Whom the gods love, die young!”
My children are very young
I’d not tell them, I’d never tell them,
That their great-grand father was
Sold for a Chinese dog,
That their great-grand uncle was
pecked at by vultures, unattended!
That the people of their mother were
Buried live in the waters of Keta Kol.
I love my children, I shall only tell them,
they are the children of Lal Ded and Nund Reshi
They are heir to Rahi, Koul and Kamil.
My children are lovely and kind
Innocent like Blake’s poems
“Little lamb, little lamb/who made thee”
But they are a little intelligent too,
Despite my choice, they will know
That they are also heir to those
Who disappeared in the crisp passes
of splendid snowy Himalayas.
Despite my choice, they will
choose their vocations, and their altars too.
The dust settled in my eyes
After the caravan left.
The corpse you dragged through burr
Was my son just yesterday.
The corner of my eye caught him,
Combing his hair in the mirror
And a crisp smile glimmering on his lips:
Perhaps he had fallen in love
With a girl in the high school
Or the pretty one living across the road;
I don’t know, he couldn’t tell.
The comb is still there with his hair on it.
Does the wait of hair tell you if your son
Would turn into a neutron star Or the black hole?
Terrorist, Militant, Rebel, Mujahid!
But the scar shines brighter.
My son, my son, my sun.
Only that his father wouldn’t allow him
To laugh and shriek and run
When he was this little, the height of your shinbone,
His father was afraid, fear of trumpets,
Words in the air.
He would tell him the story of maer
There was often a fear of falling into.
They announced it a sad day
Brexit deal was sealed.
An exit: May be sad but an exit!
They break the pen and exit.
We, on the other side, blow trumpets
And write deals in the air.
Deals that are airy, ethereal
Yet felt in iron around our necks
And the dreams of our children.
You can feel it but you can’t see it.
We need light to write our deals like Brexit
So that we could exit them
Without the blood-dimmed tide
An exit in words.
Words that aren’t broken pieces of frozen ice.
Terrorists, gunned down, exterminated,
All daggers brandished and sharp.
The barren land of heart desires nothing
But a few whole drops of dew.
Handing him a kangri, she said
The fog doesn’t disappear
With the light but the warmth.
In pursuing our dreams,
We often bruise our mothers
Thought the old man gathering grass
in his arms like a child, and looks on.
The glazed red tin roofs
That children abandoned long ago
hurled the naked void
into the heart of vast blue skies.
Waves played music
On the emerald waters of the Dal
As an eagle flew above them.
At that moment, the crazy heart craved
For nothing but a quiet corner.
The world has lost its silence
That lulled its din in her bosom.
That silence which echoed
The flute of the mad man
In the tales of our grandmothers.
They said he lost his heart
in the strangest of moments
when he had found peace at
the edge of the flute.
The old man in the boat looks on,
lips parched like a withered leaf
as the desert in the Dal raised its eyes
to the God of rain and dew.
The smell of thatch and icicles
gathered the dusk of promised land
Words are whirlpools,
The more you taste them,
The deeper you are sucked in.
The old man in the boat looks on.
 A channel of river Jhelum in Kashmir
 Litterateurs of Kashmir
Dr Ishrat Bashir is an Assistant Professor in English at Central University of Kashmir. She teaches Contemporary Literary Theory and British fiction. She obtained an M.A. in English from the University of Kashmir in 2008, and received her doctorate in Arabic Literature in Translation in 2018. Her poems, articles and translations have appeared in Transnational Literature, Indian Literature, Muse India, Open Road Review and Kashmir Dispatch. She lives in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.
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