Meena Alexander Dalit Poems

Death of a Young Dalit

In memory of Rohith Vemula (1989-2016)

Trees are hoisted by their own shadows
 Air pours in from the north, cold air, stacks of it
The room is struck into a green fever
 Stained bed, book, scratched windowpane.
A twenty-six-year-old man, plump boy face
 Sets pen to paper - My birth
Is my fatal accident, I can never recover
 From my childhood loneliness.
Dark body once cupped in a mother's arms
 Now in a house of dust. Not cipher, not scheme
For others to throttle and parse
 (Those hucksters and swindlers,
Purveyors of hot hate, casting him out).
 Seeing stardust, throat first, he leapt
Then hung spread-eagled in air:
 The trees of January bore witness.
Did he hear the chirp
 From a billion light years away,
Perpetual disturbance at the core?
 There is a door each soul must go through,
A swinging door -
 I have seven months of my fellowship,
One lakh and seventy thousand
 Please see to it that my family is paid that.
She comes to him, girl in a cotton sari,
 Holding out both her hands.
Once she loosened her blouse for him
 In a garden of milk and sweat,
Where all who are born go down into dark,
 Where the arnica, star flower no one planted
Thrives, so too the wild rose and heliotrope.
 Her scrap of blue puckers and soars into a flag
As he rappels down the rock face
 Into our lives,
We who dare to call him by his name -
 Giddy spirit become
Fire that consumes things both dry and moist,
 Ruined wall, grass, river stone,
Thrusts free the winter trees
 From their own crookedness, strikes
Us from the fierce compact of silence,
 Igniting red roots, riotous tongues

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