Treasure Island

sheena blackhall

(18/8/1947 / Aberdeen)

The Human Guinea Pig (2 poems, English)


Do you know what it is to be poor?

I was paid 1 anna
For every mosquito that bit me
One hot Bengali summer
During the time of the Raj
The white man’s power and money outweighed fear
And for a while my plate was piled with food

Do you know what it is to be poor?

It seems that I gave my consent
By thumbprint, (I cannot write)
To trials of something or other
(The doctor talked so fast
And seemed so kind
Telling me that my baby son was special)

Now my child is dust and tears
On the Delhi pavement where I lay my head

Do you know what it is to be poor?

My family are Dalits, Indian Untouchables
5 rupee voucher, that’s the stretch of our medicine

The hospital head man said that my wife was lucky
Chosen by a charity, for treatment
Costs ran to hundreds, even a Bollywood star
Could not afford such very expensive treatment

I should have smelled a rat
There was no autopsy, no answers
In the Western war of drugs against disease
We are collateral damage.

Do you know what it is to be poor?

A Buddhist Valentine

I love the silence that invites the birds
To hop un-frightened round the open shrine

I love the heart that welcomes sky and earth
Where all things intermingle and combine

I love the mind that opens up to all
The lotus in the mud, whose petals shine

Submitted: Monday, January 06, 2014
Edited: Tuesday, January 07, 2014

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