Dear Mr. Gandhi
It was cold the day the masjid
was torn down stone by stone,
colder still at the heart of Delhi
Ten years later entering Bengali market
I saw a street filled with bicycles
girls with rushing hair, boys in bright caps
I heard a voice cry
Can you describe this?
It sounded like a voice
from a city crusted with snow
to the far north of the Asian continent.
I saw him then, your grandson
in a rusty three wheeler
wrapped up in what wools he could muster.
Behind him in red letters
a sign: Dr. Gandhi’s Clinic.
So he said, embracing me, you’ve come back.
Then pointing to the clinic --
Its not that I’m sick
that gentleman gets my mail and I his.
That is why I am perched in this contraption.
I cannot stay long, it is Id ul Fitr.
I must greet friends in Old Delhi, wish them well.
Later he sought me out in dreams.
in a high kitchen in sharp sunlight
dressed in a khadi kurta, baggy jeans.
He touched my throat in greeting.
Listen my sweet, for half of each year,
after the carriage was set on fire
after the Gujarat killings,
I disappear into darkness..
In our country there are two million dead
and more for whom no rites were said.
No land on earth can bear this.
Rivers are criss-crossed with blood.
All day I hear the scissor bird cry
cut cut cut cut cut
It is the bird Kalidasa heard
as he stood singing of buried love.
Now our boys and girls take
flight on rusty bicycles.
Will we be cured? I cried
And he: We have no tryst with destiny.
My hands like yours are stained
with the juice of the pomegrante.
Please don’t ask for my address.
I am in and out of Bengali market.
Dear Mr. Gandhi
† 21.11.2018, United States
Meena Alexander was an Indian poet, scholar, and writer. She was raised in India and Sudan and lived in New York City where she was Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center/Hunter College, CUNY.
She had published poetry collections, literary memoirs, essays, and works of fiction. Her latest work, published in 2018, included a volume of poems Atmospheric Embroidery (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern U Press) and an anthology she edited: Name me a Word: Indian Writers Reflect on Writing (Yale U Press).
Meena Alexander died in New York on November 21, 2018, at age 67.
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