3 years

New Year Double Issue: Poem

End-of-Year Epiphany at the Holiday Inn

Photographer
Rohit Chawla
Tishani Doshi is a poet, novelist and dancer based in Chennai. Her latest book is Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods
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A poem

Softly, first, over egg bhurji and juice—
this country is losing her soul,
because a man in a wheelchair is beaten
for not standing to the national anthem,
because breakfast was once a noble affair,
not this litany of selfies. I know it’s ridiculous
to think countries have souls, that this one
could be feminine. I know I should have faith
in happiness and child wonders,
who will rid plastic from the earth. Oh yes,
I know the possibility of a person coming
to their knees at an airport, crying, Who am I,
is high, and most people will walk by
because time is always calling. We must believe
everything will be all right because people
are still having babies and taking them to the sea.
So what if a man is slaughtered and set alight
for love, for a slab of dead cow, for reasons
sacred? So what if the waters are rising,
and those seas will soon be upon us?
We must live in the moments we’re given.

Louder now, in the lobby of the Holiday Inn—
this country is losing her soul,
because politicians declare our daughters
safe as long as they’re parked at home,
and geniuses proclaim the national bird
so holy, it impregnates with tears.
I know I should be kinder on feedback forms.
I know you don’t really want to tell me how
to live unless you’re selling me something.
No one’s really listening unless you’re on TV.
But there are people who still grow heirloom rice,
who long for roses to assault the walls
of their homes because they believe in beauty
and her graces. And perhaps part of surviving
is to keep your knees soft, to bear grief
that the missing will always remain missing.
So when the new year arrives with the golden
light of a late Sunday morning, whispering how
everyone you love will be kept safe, you take
those promises deep into the pink
of your mouth, and you swallow.

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