Dust

1 October 2016

Not translated. Written originally in the English by the author, a native Naga speaker.

It’s my turn at the water point:
The trickle is slower today
Each day, slower,
One day, it may stop;
And my field has withered,
Rusted-dry in the staring sun,
The crevices filling with dust.
Tin buckets clash behind me
And a loud voice roughly bawls
“Don’t fill that bucket full!
Fool – don’t you know you’ll slop?”
I withdraw, abashed. It’s true:
I mustn’t spill a precious drop
Not even as a libation
To the gloating sun.

I saw a young man gunned down
As I shopped in the market place.
Two thick thuds, and then he fell,
And thrashed a bit, on his face.
That’s all. He sprawled in the staring sun.
(They whirled away in a cloud of dust
In a smart white van.)
His blood laid the dust
In a scarlet little shower,
Scarlet little flowers.
In the staring sun, the little flowers
Will burn and turn to rust.

I stumble home through arid fields
My furtive footsteps hushed by dust.
I scan the sky – hard, limpid, deep –
O pure and high is heaven’s sky!
Is there no shade for me? I weep
To hide from the glaring eye of heaven.
(Cain, my brother Cain!
I know your fear, your guilt, your pain –
I too have now a brother slain,
I too am sealed with the scarlet stain!)
My ink has crusted in my pen
And in my heart – the dust.

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