This poem appears out of a collaboration with Isha Agrawal on Instagram, who asked me to write on the picture she shot. Find her here.
Its feet apart, its face down,
a forgotten, old manuscript straddles my mantel shelf,
each hefty limb narrating a history.
This giant has archived victory
with the acrid taste of blood that inks its sheets,
with flashpaper armies igniting cowering streets
where people lived,
where people breathed,
where woven roofs were riddled with sirens and air raids.
It triumphs over even the moon.
I see triumph in footnotes of human resilience
scribbled across pavements, clouds and nine-to-five stalls
when calls of aazaadi punctuate rigid stone halls,
when those scrounging for scraps of dignity
raise themselves on crutches, hope or narrow stilts,
when in some foreign town
miles away from painted cities
hands returning home clasp hands fleeing home,
when victory is partitioned equally and passed around in safe circles.
I am an author of modest concerns;
my speech is common tongue.
My stories, once written twice shy,
fall through the cracks of eternity,
crawl through the crevices of Literature on private shelves,
and fizzle out in the fits and starts of everyday memories.
Of all things I could say about the monument
that have not been said yet:
The Arch of Triumph, fixed in pose and position,
trembles still with a drifting city underneath.