The City of Dread
Yes, they say, it is everywhere.
In courtyards children play
muffled Mujahids and uniformed
men. The local policeman,
played by the whiny, snot-nosed,
thinnest legged kid,
perhaps the poorest among them,
gets killed while watching
the antics of the slayer
and the slain.
Kings and king makers play dice,
bet on their mother, not the wife.
And, the sly one, who created
a seamless, timeless web only
watches this time.
There is nothing in it for him.
He does not work for free;
he has a fee. In the City of Dread,
they still bake the same bread.
It is poisoned, and the wine
goblet, or the cup of peach blossom
tea is not what it looks like!
Who is the betrayer?
Who will fight the duel?
Who will say: "this is
too much for me. I shall drown
myself in despair."
When she does, her blue
lotus robe will haul her up.
Weeds and black thorns
in her hair will point a finger?
In a poet's dream
a rare light cleans up the smog,
as he sights his father
crossing a mountain river.
They say it removes sorrow,
eases hurts of timeless parting.
The city comes alive then,
lithe, fragrant, sun drenched.
He sees ivy
creeping along the red brick
wall of his house, his austere home.
The secrets of life are syllables
of the day, the month, and the year:
the sacred, scientific codes
of the Vedas the poet's
grandfather read, and his father.
Fire altars of Rigveda are
a long lost language.
The poet believes in it, and the spoken
word, performed ritual, remembrance
that cannot die. He has
to be reckoned with, years
speak to him, constellations say:
"we are here, chained to stone.
You will free us."
[© Lalita Pandit, May 30, 1998].