Millions of souls nineteenseventyone
homeless on Jessore road under grey sun
A million are dead, the million who can
Walk toward Calcutta from East Pakistan
Taxi September along Jessore Road
Oxcart skeletons drag charcoal load
past watery fields thru rain flood ruts
Dung cakes on treetrunks, plastic-roof huts
- Allen Ginsburg, On Jessore Road, December 17, 1971.
Two hangings. One demanded. One enacted.
In two nations, at the very least, the politics of memory is playing out in the streets. At the one, a structured program of remembering is finally having its moment of reckoning, holding its breath before violence. At the other, the state is the one whose act of “reckoning” has unveiled the structured program of forgetting and un-relenting everyday violence.
Death flies in, thin bureaucrat, from the plains —
a one-way passenger, again. The monsoon rains
smash their bangles, like widows, against the mountains.
Our hands disappear. He travels first-class, sipping champagne.
One-way passengers again, the monsoon rains
break their hands. Will ours return, ever, to hold a bouquet?
He travels first-class. Our hands disappear. Sipping champagne,
he goes through the morning schedule for Doomsday:
“Break their hands.” Will ours return with guns, or a bouquet?
- Agha Shahid Ali, Muharram in Srinagar, 1992