Vault over to some place where everything
was colour, glory, the parade in full swing -
thousands moving as one, the thud of boots,
overhead the roar of airmen’s salutes,
multitudes of faces, hands in the crowd
clapped to the marching beat and cheered aloud.
Once more then, through jamun lined avenues
the early morning fog in soft greys and blues
traffic sparse enough to step on the tarmac
along the wide boulevards as we walk back
to where lies, if uttered, were not-for-profit,
all men were heroes, at least, not complicit.
Even now, though age has coarsened my hands,
they still want to clap to those marching bands.
But meanwhile some of those jamuns are gone,
the fog’s forced to curl around a saffron con.
The tunes are just as brave, the wings in the skies.
But the grounds are mined with a web of lies.
Of course the decades turn, the sense of free
changes with time, as does the jamun tree,
and the road it shaded once. Some time ago
that morphed to a highway, but peak traffic’s slow,
and there’s a bridge and a brand new police booth -
more crime, less heroes, that’s the honest truth.
We walk in silence, each rapt in her thoughts
a gate, a date, a parade, and each one fraught
between the current and the past recalled.
As for myself, I struggle to place the fault -
is it mine or is it just circumstance?
There’s a hole where a jamun had swayed once.
Free us from hatred and the conflicts it breeds;
give us strength to embrace every tribe and creed
free from the past, not trying to rearrange
what was unpleasant - for it does not change
even if a name’s wiped out, a word dropped
out of visible discourse, a few facts cropped.
The march past I watch now, and also those
I watched long ago, both draw to a close.
The balloons rise, the guests begin to leave.
Glad my hands have clapped, but they also grieve -
this road’s widened but endless others shrink,
narrow the spaces to live, love and think.