Poetry / June 2016 (Issue 32)

Two Poems

by Gopika Jadeja


All walls, bullet riddled
All homes, ruins

—Adil Mansuri, Bosnia 3


North of Jaffna
from the afternoon auto
I see a crow peck
at the carcass of a mongoose
torn into half entrails
strewn about in the middle
of the dirt road.

The air reeks
a void.


The poet laughs.
Tells stories of war—
radios alive and kicking
on bicycle-run-batteries,
a road-side snack
named after landmines.

The poet, bent —
plucks silences
from his head.


At Point Pedro
I want to stop, take a picture
of the large white cross
against the darkening sky—

I cannot.
I am afraid to tread
where laughter is still fragile.


Hand unsteady,
I learn to draw

on pock-marked walls.
To join the dots.

Srinagar. Ramallah.
Baghdad. Beirut. Khobane. Kabul.



The learned Šahmardān b. Abi'l-Ḵayr, in his Nozhat-nāma-ye ʿalāʾī (ca. 490-95/1097-1102; p. 136), described the migrating pattern of cranes, which fly in large numbers and in single file. Each flock is led by one bird, which at intervals is outdistanced and replaced by the bird immediately following, so that each bird in the file "might enjoy the honor and prestige of leadership." When the flocks rest at night, always far from people and such predators as foxes and jackals, the birds take turns keeping watch, and the watching bird stands on one leg in order not to fall asleep. —Encyclopaedia Iranica

When you imagined them, the cranes did not make their whoops in a tongue I know. Neither the Persian nor the Urdu. My tongue mimics from the sonic shapes of devanagri the troughs and crests of a script that flows like water, a language I have lost.

I never heard it from you but always in your voice when mother recited it, my first lesson in exile and loss, a poem about migratory cranes returning home. Your cadence punctuated the sound of the arrow that found the wing of the saras; it's fall, slow motion, to earth.

A first lesson in violence, the lines describing the hunter and the hunted. The smell of blood and love as the saras fell, its mate hovering above, crying exile. No possibility of a return home. The flock paused mid-flight, home written on wings. The air aflutter before the rush of wings fleeing arrows.

Like you, I borrow words. Make them speak in a different tongue. Yet I cannot translate into words the wounds and the wounded. Maybe it needs no translation. In your voice, my mother reciting through her tears, I see that you knew the wound is the place the light enters you.

 Gopika Jadeja is a poet and translator from India. She publishes and edits a print journal and a series of pamphlets for a performance-publishing project called Five Issues. Her work has been published in Asymptote, The Four Quarters Magazine, The Wolf, Indian Literature, Vahi, etc. She is currently working on a project of English translations of poetry from Gujarat, India. 

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