Hired car on traffic clogged monsoon roadsthe narrow nap of asphalt worn away by rains
and torrents of humanity. The driver slows,
the level crossing ahead closed, some train’s
panting felt on the air nearby; and then annoyed,
too impatient to queue, he swerves and flows
around the waiting cars and blocks the lane.
We who sit inside being driven, are a varied lotof car-owners and law-abiding folk that scare
easily when the laws are followed, and when they’re not;
and so we hunker down and keep quiet in there
hope that no-one will notice this brash car
let the driver drive, hopefully he’ll find a spot
to nose in discreetly again somewhere.
We make mistakes, and then compound them with hopes;just a few yards away from the final barrier
a righteous uncouth thug jumps out and gropes
the hood and makes it loudly and amply clear
this is where the buck and the car both stop
get right behind! reverse, go on! pushes us back the slope
with a violent maelstrom of words hard to hear.
Blah blah blah two wrongs can’t make a right;‘course they can, keep the ruddy windows up
don’t talk now, he doesn’t understand polite
notions of delivering justice. But he’s too rough!
It’s our mistake, he probably carries a knife.
Everyone just be quiet and sit tight
how long will he curse and push and shove?
The child shudders in a mix of fear and surprisenestles closer as the car backs down. Some taboos
have been broken, a film in his eyes
of unshed panic. We have so little; but still it’s too much to lose
trust and innocence in the melee of grown up quiet
something feels false about this whole device
must a wrong be righted with so much scathing abuse?
Those coarse hands on the hood violatethe space inside, the knuckles rap
not on metal but my body, the weight
and feel of rings as fingers push and grab
the grille, that’s my throat my lungs, they suffocate
all but an equally uncivilised, scorching rage
the window’s down, and I’ve finally escaped the trap.
That rough youth, half my age, twice my sizedoesn’t reform or mend his ways
because I make one sharp request, criticise
his language. His hands and gaze
lose no venom, tone down nothing of the spite
in his vindictive diatribe. But my peace lies
undisturbed now, on the child’s tranquil face.
*Bishnupur is a small town in Bengal famous for its old 17th century terracotta temples.
Shared at Poetics@dVerse