TWO POEMS ON HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES


On Facebook which is virtually the only (with rare exceptions) place - if it is that- where my very hectic schedule permits me to socialize, I posted my poem His House Was Raided By The Army. I wrote this after listening to a Northeast Indian (who must remain unnamed for security reasons) relate his 1990's experience as a human rights defender and the depressing (Sorry, folks, but I really use this word often.) situation in his homeland Manipur which, I think, mirrors the depressing situation in our own. If we have our Oplan Bantay Laya, his people have the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The poem was written before the murder on 17 November of Manipur journalist Rishikanta seemingly by state security personnel. The murder serves to justify and exacerbate the anger in my poem.

Poet Alex Munoz (real name: Butch Espere), who is definitely a "brother in the faith" responded with a moving poem which he called Resolution No. 1 (Reply to HIS HOUSE WAS RAIDED BY THE ARMY). After reading it, I felt my soul soften like I was a cloud floating in the atmosphere. Apparently, Alex found my poem depressing (There is that word again!) and it may have driven him to anger. And as he said to me in Facebook, "After reading your poem last night, I wished I could talk to those people and tell them, FIGHT BACK. RECLAIM YOUR LIVES! I guess that was all to it. Because I can't, I tried writing the poem." Whew! Here is a guy who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. In his poem he says, "This war is not about razing or dying. It's about seizing the higher ground." These lines make my hair stand on end.

The two poems together elicited an impassioned discussion on rights abuse. Fifty (50) comments were generated in less than 48 hours. I uploaded the comments in the Comments Section here and urge readers to pay attention to them as well. I forwarded the poems to the (Northeast) Indian and to other Indian friends because I know they could share our thoughts with their people. Besides, as Alex/Butch said, the poems were written with them in mind.

I posted the poems on my Multiply site, and they were published by Bulatlat but they also deserve a space in this blogsite. It opened in May 2007 as a poetry site until my opinionated self could not resist writing a line or two- OK, long paragraphs at times- about issues. So once again, let us shift to poetry.

His House Was Raided By The Army

Firm he stood on the quaking ground of justice
And obliged the cracked lips of mendacity
To declare the truth grappling to surface
From the prison of hollow, specious rhetoric

Then his house was raided by the army

He halted the arms of death before they fired
At his hapless people who could no longer tell
The face of Life from Death, Hope from Trepidation
A flash of light from his nerve unsettled Darkness

Then his house was raided by the army

He marshaled the strength of weeping women
Their virtues slain in the altar of madness and terror
Carefully, he covered their painful nakedness
With promises of hope he sometimes disbelieved

Then his house was raided by the army

Will his tired people adjourn from digging graves,
Or waiting in vain for the ghosts of the disappeared?
When will the torrent of fresh blood dry on the roads
Paved by courage, blasted by terror, entrenching doom?

While he meanders between despair and hope

Another house will be raided by the army. (12 Nov 08)

Resolution No. 1
(A Reply to HIS HOUSE WAS RAIDED BY THE ARMY)
by ALEX MUNOZ

The winged wind had just whispered
to the trees the invaders are here.
But do not scamper, my dear Melinda.
Hush, the owl would soon sound
the clarion call. See the sky turn pitch
ebony to blind our foes, the vines sway

to seal the glades. This is our forest,
their trap; their Styx, our Ellysian Fields;
the "masa" our gods to keep us immortal.
So be damned no more by false analogies.
Worry not about death or kindred cares.
For this war is not about razing or dying.

It's about seizing the higher ground.
Take these arms as your pillow
when you lay-spread on the rathole.
Hold them close to your bosom
to banish the demons lurking beyond
our trenches. Recast them into harpsichord

for new lays for old minstrels, to make
lovers of us all. Kiss the gasera flames
goodbye, tiger roll to the wooded knoll.
Now, there beneath the evening star
let us discard our right to remain
silent as we, doomed to take the prize,
squeeze the stone in their hearts. (20 Nov 2008)

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