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Akhil Katyal

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Akhil Katyal

An American soldier
        in Vietnam, still "unravelling"
        after all these years, is told by
        his wife that the branches they
        both see are "only branches", 
        not sky crossed in barbed-wire. 

An English soldier
        in France, still paces behind the 
        wagons of his dreams, still sees
        those "white eyes writhing". When 
        he dies, the citation says he "inflicted
        considerable losses to the enemy".         

An Israeli soldier
        in Palestine, refuses to fly, says
        the word - occupation - finds a
        hole in the skies he knew too well.
        Others in the unit whet conscience 
        on fear, call him names, disappear.
An Indian soldier
        in Kashmir, uncovers his wound.
        One, in the Rashtriya Rifles unit
        runs "amok in the wee hours, killing
        five soldiers before killing himself".
        Officers claim "inadequate leave".

(thanks to Bruce Weigl and Wilfred Owen)
Name: Nasir Shafi
D.O.B: 13-Jan-2005
School: Greenlight Higher Secondary
Class: VII
Resident Of: New Theed Harwan, Srinagar
Father's Name: “More than 300 pellets pierced my son’s body.”
Mother's Name: “He was tall and looked much older for his age."
"...distinction holder..."
"...ace footballer..."
"...wanted to be an engineer..."
"...had promised us he will take mummy and papa on Haj..."
Last Seen: "...boys were throwing stones at government forces near the Theed bus stand. Around 5 pm, or later, the forces surrounded the spot from all sides. I saw Rakshak jeeps speeding towards us...We ran towards the Dachigam Park forest...As we reached near the Hapatghar, the bear cage, the police were already there...some of us tried to hide behind bushes and trees, others ran towards the saraband, the reservoir...I climbed a tree to save myself...I saw the SHO order his men to catch the boys...then I saw Nasir alone in the Saraband. A group of five policemen went towards among them pointed his gun towards him and fired...he fell down instantly..."

Date of Death: 17-Sept-2016
Cause of Death according to local Police: Killed by a Bear.
Meaning of Name: Nasir, 'Protector', 'Helper', 'The one who will bring victory'

(thanks to Ubeer Naqushbandi, Junaid Nabi Bazaz, Abir Bashir, Faisal Khan and Jehangir Ali)
On the sixth day,
a white graduate student tells me
my English is strong.
I meant to say, that's just as well,
I'm an English teacher,

but didn't, because why the hell
should English still be the gold standard
to measure race relations,
and worth.

On the second day, 
they took us grocery shopping.

There was a McDonalds outside
the store. And outside McDonalds
were two flags - the bright yellow 'M' 
flying a little higher than Stars & Stripes.

America wraps itself up in cliché sometimes.

On the fourth day,
I was watching a Youtube video
of a press conference, 
where the Indian Home Minister,
in the seventh week of the curfew in Kashmir,
said that the use of pellet guns caused 'least damage'.

I am beginning to think words
change their meanings in Kashmir.

I am trying to square 'least damage' 
with hundreds of children blinded, with
the paramilitary forces' own admission that
they used 1.3 million pellets in over four weeks. 

'Least' is the last word
to change its meaning in Kashmir, 
in the long line of words,
that includes 'Childhood', and also

On the third day, 
I meet a poet who writes of
the missing children of her homeland,
those no longer on the swings,
those no longer on the beaches.

Those eclipsed like
meanings from words.

The map tells me that
from Iowa City to Palestine
is 6327 miles, and
that from Iowa City to Kashmir
is 7127 miles. 

I realize how close 
Kashmir is to Palestine.

On the fifth day,
we go to a house party
and I find out what sort of houses
University professors can afford to live in in Iowa.

I don't compare.

On the first day,
later, as the evening swept the sky,
we drove from Cedar Rapids airport to our hotel,
and the one thing that I gasped at
- and I did not think I'd gasp at anything in a small town -
was the size of the moon.

It seemed the highway held a moon
ten times bigger than I'd ever seen back home.

This was a beginning,
I told myself,

and if the moon can multiply its size,
what is not possible, then, here?


Feature–Contemporary Indian English Poetry

    Editorial: GJV Prasad

    Abhay K
    Aishwarya Iyer
    Akhil Katyal
    Amlanjyoti Goswami
    Ananya S Guha
    Arup K Chatterjee
    CS Bhagya
    Debasish Lahiri
    Devdan Chaudhuri
    Dhananjay Singh
    Gertrude Lamare
    Goirick Brahmachari
    Joie Bose
    Maaz bin Bilal
    Malsawmi Jacob
    Meera Sagar
    Nabina Das
    Nitoo Das
    Priya Sarukkai-Chabria
    Rajesh Kumar
    Ranu Uniyal
    rizio yohannan raj
    Rochelle Potkar
    Saima Afreen
    Sanjeev Sethi
    Semeen Ali
    Shelly Bhoil
    Smeetha Bhoumik
    Srilata K
    Sudeep Sen
    Sukrita Paul Kumar
    Sumana Roy
    Tabish Khair
    Taseer Gujral
    Uddipana Goswami
    Usha Akella
    Uttaran Das Gupta
    Vivek Narayanan
    Linda Ashok

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