Graffiti at JNU | Photograph by Salik Shah

As part of Poets Respond series, we’re inviting poetry about recent events. You can find our submission guidelines here.


The Nation Wants to Know 
by Zainab Ummer Farook

The nation wants to know
why you write poetry
when you should be studying

This pesky nation of yours
seems to want to know a lot,
so I will say this:

I am young
and furious, and my voice
gathers rust,
prone as it is to noise
that demands I sew my lips
into silences

where only
canned dreams
and clockwork desires

I am young
and furious, and my voice
yearns to sing
to a different tune

and it will:
its frayed ends and jagged edges
will spill blood
on all that you declare holy –

on the 207-foot-tall tricolor
and the mandated 1-foot space
and the
sitting next to me

on the weighted boots
of history
that condemned to death
a boy’s yearning for stardust

on the six yards of sanskaar
and fifty-inch veils of modesty
which brand my love
an obscenity

on the madness
that lynches a man
with just a lingering whisper
of look in his fridge

on the lines
that become fences
that become walls
built upon grave after grave
of frozen uniforms
and butchered hearts.

hear me as I drip blood –
its red seeping
into an earth

where answers are weeds
and questions burst
into life
without fear

where poetry
hits every discordant note
on the way

as it soars above

auto-tuned voices
peddling doctored truths
and photoshopped patriotisms

So hear me
as I sing
as I kiss
as I tell

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Zainab Ummer Farook
Zainab Ummer Farook is a 2nd year Integrated Masters student at the Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras. You can find her at zainabuf.blogspot.in.