Inside Al-Madina Souq
The market that once glittered
With silver coins and golden gifts,
Chocolates and popcorn
Lingerie and skirts
lay toppled from
somersaulting shopping trolleys
cannons and rocket warfare
Mounds of dried tears
stuck in hollowed eyes
gape into the stony void
of the tomb
Rosy cheeks by the hundred,
Split by bombs and explosives,
Wrapped in dust and scum
Plead for the kiss of the lover,
the lap of the mother
In the web of cracks
On the walls of the
Citadel of Aleppo, the piercing
Screams of children vibrate
Into the alleys, like lightning
up and down
And sideways, with no relief
And the Great Mosque
Is chock-a-block with the paralysed prayers
The rest are crowds of
women, men and children
fleeing with their prayers
rolled up in their sleeves
babies and bags on their backs
and don’t come ashore
they walk, they run
and don’t arrive
they alight a plane
and don’t land
they are embalmed
and remain entombed
they are refugees
outside their homes
far away from Aleppo
where their passports and
identity cards burn in bonfires
— Sukrita Paul Kumar
Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark
Act I, Scene IV
(Enter the ghost)
“Who is there?
Horatio, speak to me,”
thunders the cloud-dark-son of King Yayati.
Slithering in moonbeams,
the dark, hoary night suddenly splits into a hiss:
“I am murdered,
most foul and unnatural murder,
avenge me, Son.”
(Exit the ghost)
Act II, Scene III
Skulls in hand,
pimps, prostitutes, gravediggers and thieves
march with irregular armies of cows, goats and buffaloes,
mourning the death of their eunuch King.
Lips painted with hebenon,
sleeps with the war-bleached body of the Aswamedha horse
to celebrate the victory of lecherous Pythagoras
across strange territories.
Listen Horatio! Now you know
why I am a pagan lacking the courage to take revenge and chant AZADI.
I must reveal the secret.
Wearing the body of my father,
Uncle Indra — adulterate beast with a thousand wicked eyes,
sneaked into the horse’s body
and mated with his conquered booty,
till all the clocks in Denmark fell silent, quartz again.
Her secret desires fulfilled,
she felt Infuriated,
and killed the horse with the ritual knife at first stroke of daybreak,
threw the slaughtered parts in the holy fire,
sniffed the Vedic scent of smoking fat,
spit out old banished Gods in disgust,
and freed herself from the sin.
O, horrible! O, horrible! O, horrible!
Act V, Scene unknown
(Enter the ghost)
Who is there?
Horatio, answer me.
I see the shadow of a dead horse enter me;
I become like my father — cursed in blood.
My revenge on the smiling damned villain has robbed me of my soul —
‘blood will have blood’, only.
I must die now.
Horatio, I am neither a good nor bad Hamlet.
Prostrate from ancient fatigue,
the four-legged shadow of the ghost neighs out:
The Truth! The Truth!
(Exit the ghost. Curtains)
— Ashwani Kumar