@ A Journey Westward - Poem by Sadiqullah Khan
I The Sunset
In the year not known, but less than half
A century, when April sun in the arid spring
Having bloomed flowers and the wheat
Ripened like the gold tresses on earth’s forehead.
The ancient Kalidasa had sung much praise to the yellow
Mustard flowers; He would announce a celebration
Holier than any rite, revering earth and fertility amidst
Heat. Of what we call tropics. He would invent a story.
We were riding six wheeled vehicles, full of hay
A buffalo for skimmed milk and up to the hills.
Everything is sans a common sense, a nomad back home;
Finding birth in the stones and in the cattle’s stable.
The hills passed through a camp of colonial significance
Adjacent to a picket known for harboring ghosts.
Mythicized, because the poor soldiers out of fear
Could not hold it. There was a long grave of nine meters.
The tallest of the saints, ever had been resting there.
People had actually seen the extension being made
And many others believed it. Thatched houses
Of not so nomadic population. There was a river
More dry than watered by spring waters. Overlooking
Were the caves, where families lived. We were in a fort.
Having lunch and before we left there was a sign
Reading -foreigners not allowed. In another similar place.
I had read “Britain, eleven thousand miles away”
No one was going there either. It might have been
For the frontier men, Gorkhas, Irishmen or Welsh.
To feel the easiness of being close to their homes.
Long live the King, Union Jack story adamant to defeat
The boorish Bear. My uncle once narrated a story.
A man was in need of leave, and the abiding English-man
Gave him his blanket to sleep in it than giving him
A much sought leave. A call of duty.
Once we landed into a trouble. There were torrential rains.
Flood water, red in color and our vehicle went out of order.
Water had entered into the carburetor of a Mazda.
We stayed in the fort overlooking the riverret,
The room was like a dark tunnel, and it smelt like
Having been washed with pungent sprays and sweat.
Though we reached home in the morning.
The crossing of the Iron Bridge was a sign
That we were reaching soon after crossing
The corner of a hill, sloping like a long nose diving
We also were through the saint’s grave and man who is a martyr
Who had been fighting the foreigners, without his head.
That place has many Christian graves, and an officer
Who had been killed by a tribesman and buried
By his friend. He had been able to arrest the killer.
This village possesses many strange names.
Living besides the dead, with their bones,
Under heavy stones, lest they may come out again.
Or to beautify the eternal abodes, as harsh as it was above,
The surface. Many people only wait for their turn and young girls
Wish to give birth to children as soon as possible
Before growing into trees, dry, and before shedding their fruits.
Once I was in the Camp, and admitted to a school,
My grand uncle would order for me
In the afternoon, cream of cow’s milk and warm bread.
-I still have the taste in my mouth.
We would travel home to reach in the evening on foot,
Pass through unfamiliar places and layers of buried dead
Their bones being drenched by rain water.
Every one ignored them. They did not exist or were too old
To be remembered. Others pretended that no one knows
Who were they. There was a spring nearby. People would
Drink water from there. The water was to be squeezed
From aquatic creatures and algae, for the thirst
Used to be too much. Down and a little far away
There were cool willow trees. Damp earth and thick shadow.
But reaching home was all the more necessary before
Poet's Notes about The Poem
Photography: A line in Scotland 1981, by Richard Long @ Art & Culture
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