“One nation, torn apart / by cartographic line / and the thunder of fifteen million footfalls. / Bodies pile and neighbors leave / for a chance to live. / That history, I am its future.”
an indian pakistani sestina
August, 1947. The British divide Colonial India into two independent countries, Muslim Pakistan
and Hindu India, inciting the largest and bloodiest mass migration in human history.
One nation, torn apart
by cartographic line
and the thunder of fifteen million footfalls.
Bodies pile and neighbors leave
for a chance to live.
That history, I am its future.
The fated future.
Like cells, doomed to split apart
tearing people, taking lives
like each human had a dotted line
across their heart, “cut here” and leave
unaware of the destruction, of the fall-
-out, the cleanup, the spilled blood which falls
from my veins as I watch from the future
unable to scream or leave
like the little boy hiding, watching his parents diced apart
with swords, closing his eyes and mouth and running across the line
with only a bloody teddy bear, to live.
He prays for his parents in the religion that took their lives.
It doesn’t matter which faith; both fall
under the same nation, divided by a false line.
False, because fifteen million people needed to run to have a future
and refugees pulled apart
doors of trains only to find hundreds of dead bodies, murdered trying to leave.
On the tree of Hindustan, I am the leaves.
The massacre gave way to life
as my parents, on the fiftieth anniversary of partition, vowed “till death do us part.”
My blood is the innocent blood that fell
on both sides; the animosity of the past only a haunting memory in the future
where I straddle the line.
I am half-Indian Hindu, half-Pakistani Muslim; my family line
proves there is hope, if you believe
in miracles, I am one, I am the future.
Each day I live
is a day closer to the fall
of the forces tearing my nation apart.
It’s time to take apart this line.
Make this wall of wills fall to the ground, and leave.
As long as I live, I am the future.