By Sabyasachi Nag
Two Men Burning
A man watches another man set on fire.
He watches the man beat his arms,
running towards them, that set him on fire;
running towards them, that are watching –
silently making room for him
as he makes his last desperate dash,
away from fire.
But the fire is him; it runs with him.
He can’t feel a thing – his legs, his arms.
He can’t feel his back or shoulder blades.
He can’t feel his neck or head – he’s on fire.
He can see people make room for him.
He has never had so much room to run.
The man who has been watching, is dead still.
With every breath, he can feel the air
inside his body get away for good;
he tries to breathe deeper, breathe longer, harder,
but with every breath he can feel
an inexplicable burn taking over.
He can see his skin sagging – an emptied sac,
burning unnoticed, in a corner.
He tries to move his feet, make a dash toward the door.
He turns towards those that’d set the man on fire.
He turns towards those that have been watching –
they keep watching, they won’t move,
he has no where else to turn.
If You Were in Delhi
I fear, you too might die Akbari, all of eighty-five,
tied to the steel bed and forced to choke in this fire
someone else started, somewhere else;
or like Ankit Sharma, first beaten, then shot,
facing the gutter, by the house you were born;
but my worst fear for you is dying faceless.
To die faceless is like, not dying at all;
as if the sweet arc of your epic biography –
that you plotted so meticulously to end in something
so beautiful –that epic got hacked, half way,
because the ghost-writer got shot, saying something
he shouldn’t have; or got burnt loving someone
he needn’t have; or got washed in ether
dialing this acid hate; or that fear of dying faceless.
To be one in the countless more dead
is like being counted for the wrong reason.
You know, you die when the brain stops
remembering your own history; you die when the heart
stops responding to your own beauty; you die once more
when no one remembers your name.
But when you die, be sure they know your name.
Or ask them to call those ascetics that claim to materialize
at will, the dead. Or make them dead return. If not to start
where they left, at least to point at the haunts in the garden,
where they carved their name, by the arrow heart.
Sabyasachi Nag is the author of two previous collections of poetry: Bloodlines (Writers Workshop, 2006) and Could You Please, Please Stop Singing (Mosaic Press, 2015). His third poetry collection, Uncharted (Mansfield Press) is forthcoming in Spring 2020. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in several anthologies and publications including Canadian Literature, Grain, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, The Maynard and Vallum among others. He is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and holds a graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers.
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