We didn’t know that’s what they were doing
When they first took our words
From the toddlers’ mouths,
Replacing babbles and songs
That our grandmothers sang to us
With songs of willows and daffodils that
We would never see swaying, fluttering on the
Banks of riverbeds here in the drought
Where only dry roots come out of the ground
In the beginning of April.
We didn’t know that words are not taken away overnight.
They left stolen words on
The dry bed of the river until the rains returned.
Until the monsoon river flooded.
Until we, ourselves, could be trusted
To be the dhobis they wouldn’t be.
That we could be trusted was a certainty.
We never suspected that we would
Unleash our own torrents of water, the spill,
The flood, the tide.
That we would be good
At releasing onto the banks of our own land
A water laden with poison, heavy with
The debris of another’s psyche
To leave behind residents stunned
By the horrors they saw but had no
Words that they could use to call them out.
We didn’t know that we would be so
Good at stealing from ourselves
The words that hold a people together.
Not the vile language of the politician,
The rhetoric of the mob leader, spewing oil on
The river’s back to carry flames into the
Dry wood villages – history’s tinderboxes.
We have ourselves been the thieves of all
That could sustain us, that, flowing in our blood,
Could nourish fields of breathtaking beauty
With flowers of our land, large, lustrous, and scented,
Humming, singing, the songs of our world.
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