Freedom

NABANITA KANUNGO

It would try to lisp a dumbness sometimes—
the language of welts rising slowly on the panes,
a cracked blur of riot-torn air,
confused which year it was.

The last time it made a sound was when
it crinkled on its way into a bin,
a great plot of justice. I wasn’t born, then;
my father was.

It must have been whole once,
for you could still conceive it like a dream,
a gloriously illegitimate thing, though;
until a country was torn out of its heart one day
and you saw its impaled ghost in the moon.

My grandfather told me we had slept so long
with a flag over us, we couldn’t run when
machetes poked us awake amidst still-dreaming heads
rolling in the streets like marbles struck in game.

There was nowhere to go and we went nowhere,
with its face slumped on our backs
and history books that said what had happened is the past,

until sixty years later, a community’s threats betraying
her voice, a poor nun requested me
to leave my month-old job in a convent
where I’d studied since childhood.

I keep trying to find its shape in photographs, old letters,
the wind of stories trapped in some cancerous throat, dying …

a tattered roof in the stars, a tent flying off
with meanings barely gathered into a heap.

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