Fake Boots - Poem by Aruni Kashyap
Actually, stamping our feet
should have only awakened her,
but surprisingly, her motionless, senseless body made us run around
look for water, seniors and women
as if the fifty year old lady was in labour.
So more feet stamped while they sprinted anxiously
for women, water and a pair of open eyes.
We found her lying under the bed, a machete
clutched in her hands, drawn with love
towards her breast, as if to fight the whole world
of alien Hindi words, stamping feet and a camp
of green-men near the river where women no more
bathed, after many women were stripped,
even before they shed their second skins,
who didn’t blush only before the morning sun.
She must have thought,
she would be one of them now
who were peeled to be enjoyed by many;
For hours since, she dared to speak silently to walls,
cicadas, four puppies huddled around a milk-heavy bitch,
maybe she thought, she would be one of those
who came back with crushed testicles to wail for nights
like hernia patients, while their wives burned
forever on beds fearing opinions and wobbling tongues,
though there was nothing as such to crush in her.
But perhaps only squeeze, though they were dry
And hung like weaver-birds’ nests
from coconut branches in loamy soils.
She had been sleeping, the crumpled bed said, the hot-water bag
her earning city-son brought from the concrete-jungle slept
instead of her on the bed; and when I sat on it exasperated,
after breaking the only entrance to the house,
it was still warm with fear, comfort and urine.
We were only playing military-military.
Carpet grasses had just started growing from below.
We couldn’t smoke if we wanted to, or watch films in cheap halls,
join the ULFA if we wanted, the way we can do now.
But still, those were better than days when we sneaked behind tamarind trees
and sang Bihu couplets to same-age girls, who had just learnt
to wrap a piece of cloth around their chests and giggled
poking each other in parts
we were embarrassed to utter the names of
before our elders.
We had new shoes then, the neglected Durga-idols waited
to be immersed in rivers and we thought,
one night—eating peanuts, jalibis and besan-pakodas,
to knock at aunt’s door, while she slept with
the puppies, the walls and the heavy yet trying-to-be-warm air
inside, where she was left alone, to wait for us
Who pretended to wear boots, speak Hindi
and ask about the ULFA
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