23 August, 2006

Coffee in Times of War...

Just the other day a friend asked
Have you ever tried war poetry?
War, I said, I haven’t seen one.
I was only born in seventy-one.
I’ve often seen pictures –
Oh why pictures! Even a painting
in a restaurant once –
of a Sikh General
making the Pakistanis
sign the surrender.
And then I grew up
reading lessons, history
about World War One and World War Two,
Plassey, Panipat, Waterloo,
War & Peace, The Day of Armistice,
the ancient tales of the Mahabharata,
the Muharram majlises, Karbala.

But then who needs textbooks these days?
Television brings Beirut live, like irrelevant foreplay.
And if this isn’t enough there are movies –
A Bridge too Far, Platoon, Killing Fields.

But no, I have never seen a war.
I don’t know what it means
to sit through blackouts, power outages,
to hold my breath and wait
for a bomb to detonate.
I don't know what it means
to have splinters of plastic and tin
pierce through my clothes, skin.
I don't know what it means
to lose an eye, to lose a limb.
I haven’t seen my child without her head.
I don’t know what it means
when a mother grieves for her dead.
The closest I have seen a man’s guts
split wide open was from a scene
in a movie called Saving Private Ryan.

I don’t know what it means
to run from desk to desk
in a dank office corridor
asking for compensation
for a son dead in a war.

I don’t know…

My words trailed in the wispy heat
of Delhi’s August afternoon street.

I am afraid I am not qualified enough
to write a poem on war. I am
only a struggling actor running
from one audition to another
wondering when will I
get my big break.

My friend cursed himself
for bringing this topic up,
dunked his biscuit in his coffee,
as I waved to the waiter,
May we have more of these, please!

© Dan Husain
August 23, 2006

7 Comments:

Blogger Raghav said...

count your blessings

23/8/06 22:05  
Blogger Rude Awakenings said...

guess we're all peas from the same pod. guilty luck.

24/8/06 11:45  
Blogger csperez said...

powerful! how do i join this blog?

25/8/06 02:09  
Blogger Jez said...

No comment.

31/8/06 17:02  
Blogger Jez said...

may I post your poem on my blog?

31/8/06 17:03  
Blogger balihai said...

of a Sikh General
making the Pakistanis
sign the surrender

hmmm

love the poem. except for these lines.

8/9/06 02:05  
Blogger Blue Athena said...

Will just repeat what I wrote elsewhere in ersponse! :D

I like how you've placed together various instances of wars cutting across times and cultures. I like the vividness of war that you paint. And, I like how you portay the nonchalance that's present almost always of how we shrug it all away to get on with our lives.

Very fine work! :)

24/9/06 11:14  

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