Wrote this poem a couple of years ago, in response to a photo and a brief news item about the police opening fire upon a group of protesting farmers in July 2007. It was published in The Little Mag a few months ago.
Including One Woman
Last night there was a great storm
but the sky stood there - upright,
almost a hard white.
Last night, she'd gone
to the state capital; we'd had a fight.
But they said, she's waiting, come.
Now is not the time.
So I went and there she was.
White sheets, like we've never crept into.
Her, like I'd never seen her before.
Red saree, yellow flowers,
like I've never seen grow.
On the bus, I borrowed a newspaper.
Five, it said, including one woman
(I hadn't let her take the child).
There was a photo but
you could hardly tell.
That wild hair.
Yellow flowers, red saree
and her smell. A new smell.
This new smell I did not know.
It came from her. I touched her and thought:
Why does she need to go
to these places? These new places
of noise and smell
and run run run.
Red. Red. Red.
Wild saree riding up her legs. Bare feet.
On the street she lay on concrete.
The sheet was so white.
They said, they'd help me
take her home. I said, thank you.
I lifted my hands and said, sir,
raam-raam. I said, I kept the child.
And they said, this is no place for children; you were right.
But, I said, but
we had a fight. We had a fight.
They said, you were right. I said, she wanted the child
by her side.
Beside her, I squatted and cried:
I should have been at your side.
She had looked up at the sky and said: Listen.
The sky is rumbling. There will be a great storm.
Keep the child warm.
And I had sworn not to see her face again
if she went to the city, again.
But she went. And here I am.
I'll take her back. I'll take her back. Let me
please take her back, I said.
They said, we will
help. It wasn't supposed to be
I said, sir, yes.
They said, be strong, stay calm.
I said, yes.
At the fire,
I told the child:
Last night there was terrible storm.
And the sky stayed right where it was.
(C) Annie Zaidi, October 2007