ARGUS UNDER ANAESTHESIA
The march of the hunted across a land
No longer their own began
At a haunted dawn
Yet only last summer, the last ever
Flowering March, golds and emeralds
Quivered in lush orchards—
Now burnt; scattered ashes enveloped
The moving column
In a thin safety of silence;
The least noise was suicidal;
A mother frenzied by the roar of mortars
Throttled her whining infant:
Its life for the life of millions.
Bruised feet, bleeding hands;
Dilated eyes enacting the frenzy of Oedipus.
Corroding thirst dulled
The sense of loss of violated wives, mothers,
Sisters, butchered babies.
Worst the burden of survival in a den
Beyond the reach of bipeds
Set loose by madmen with moron-eyes
Spurting martial orders
Between bouts of drunkenness.
The lull left by sudden
Departures lay heavy over the fields.
The mourning corn
Bent with grief; impossible phantasmagoria
Haunting the eyes
Of deserted dogs and cattle; incredible
Whiteness of human flesh, pigment
Peeled off by blind bayonets;
Crouching figures of raped
Infants making the earth red.
What shapes of space will
Shelter them? Unused pipes, fragile
Those who died on the way, will
Never come to their heritage
Of a bowl of rice— and cholera.
Roofless even in death
Their buried dreams float in the air.
Stifled sighs echo through eloquent
Trees; unlike Duncan's their humble blood
Dried ungolden on hungry bones;
Their names unwritten in the annals
Of freedom—again and again
A trampled bud—its elusive fragrance
Wafted to eager nostrils by words
Minutes and manifestoes.
While the guinea-pigs trudge
Towards some meagre shelter
Sleek men sweat in winter clothes
Seated at polished tables.
The conference proceeds; pencil strokes confer
Life and death on millions.
When bony arms stretch for proferred
Morsels global motives
Are espied; new slogans coined to deter
In a golden island far beyond
The reach of these
Marching millions, Eve in the shape
Of a voluptuous politico
Twitters in girlish glee—just returned
From the holy land:
“Genocide? No!— Only banquets,
Lovely roses, bushy eye-brows,
Exotic charm— a little brutal perhaps”,
(But how an English rose
Would love to be crushed in hairy arms!)
As for happy triggers—
To keep the colonies —why that's
No novelty to us!
Be a sport—do let us dance!
If he made Black Princes
Glow all over the highways
Of a maudlin land
Where such roses are unheard of, that's
All the more glory!
“Contrary to common talk— said
My charming host—
The stumpy race is far from anaemic;
Beneath pigmented skin”—so he launched
This second crusade
Between the opulent and the half-fed
In Allah's name.
The demonic delta now wears a strange look!
As the battle cry is sounded
By a spray of machine-guns
A true post-ablution
Beauty bathes the ones sprawled
In streets and promenades…..
The vultures shall come
Cheap scavengers—to supplement
The economy of bayonets—in a protracted
And sacred war
A bullet is worth more than the feeble
Heart-beat of a heathen.
And behold! Now begins the miracle:
The crowning glory of Jihad
The holy feat of tearing rich pigmented
skin open—to create
Stupendous roses in a moist plain!
" Conquest of climate; call it what you will;
And here Jill
Is a rose for you and a rose for me
As we dance to a waltz
In this soft green malachite hall,
Counting our victories!
A few thousand dead! Heil Adolf!
Eye-brows matching moustache!
Swinging in katabolistic glee
As I watch the friendly
Banner coo assurances—my heart thaws!
The Dialectics—no monopoly
Of the Russians— do not exclude elimination
Before new creation!”
Far, far away from the velvet-sweep
The shot silk softness
Of the tender waltz there are quivering raintrees
Planted by romantic colonists.
Beneath their cool breeze sleeps Selim,
Physics undergrad; 3rd Year Honours
Equal master of a seven-stringed Sitar
His eyes—before they got erased
By a bull-dozer—reflected for
The fraction of a moment the sapphire
March-sky of a land
About to die out of the atlas.
And there was Jyoti—the suave conversationalist
Who kept the smile on his lips
Till they became amorphous flesh in the mass-grave,
Which also houses Modhu
The varsity canteen-keeper for four decades:
He grossly mispronounced
The Kalimah hoping to survive by the incantation.
Oh Gabriel, do not
Call out to the Enshrouded One;
He is only human—
They are all gone, the men and the women
Leaving this faith
Not meant for mortals, to supermen;
Dreamers of great concepts,
Dynamic heroes the fabric of whose dreams
Is often woven
With the torn-down veins of unknowing men,
Every now and then
These high-priests of deception gather roses
From common gardens
To adorn the putrid shrine of their super-egoes.
The roses, hence,
We consecrate to them.
What if these livid plants which
Bore the roses should awake in a terrible
Armed like Argus with a myriad eyes;
And with their
Omniscient, cruel light burn the hypnotic
Tongue of demagogues,
Scald inept ringers glued to the reins
And demand back
Their broken lives, theirs
To live or sacrifice?
12. 11. 1971
Notes—The first two sections describe the exodus from Bangladesh to India of refugees in 1971. The third states the reactions of a woman Parliamentarian back from Pakistan to her native England to Yahya Khan's action in Bangladesh. The fourth is a kind of reverie undergone by Yahya. The fifth section shifts back from England and Pakistan to Bangladesh.