Headlines from home




From home, comes a dead body,
wrapped in late September breeze, overtly displaying
its left arm, dangling like a branch of dried apple tree,
away from sunlight and warmth,
eating from scare winds and all pervasive shades,
bearing no fruit and no seeds anymore;
from home comes a horde of living men; In trains and buses,
looking for a bed, living baffled under the hot piercing sun,
sleeping decomposed over the sweat dripping nights,
wallowing dusty with the turn of afternoon hours;

From home comes memory; of snowy roads,
and frozen trees; of cold December mornings and frost bites;
from home comes a savoury mirthfulness of bygone summers,
flowing damsel with the green in woods—now far.

From home comes the chanting of Astag firullah, sung and forgotten
on shab-e-qadr nights—chanted, rhymed and forgotten;

From home each Eid delivers a young baby girl
named desolation, fed motherly milk and cajoled into
a gaze of military continuum;

From home airplanes smell of a pugnacious smoke,
reeking and embracing its foreign, slattern nostrils,
placed on the illicit countenance of its embellished factitiousness,
smoke: truncating its skies to haze and rainless clouds;


One night his mother prayed for a safe return,
a son who fractured his eyes and their gaze
playing with the monotony of his bunkered town,
playing with stones and a handful slogans replete with
alphabets of untraded historicity;
That night he came with the presence of them all,
old and young, brave and unsung,
he came with the presence of them all,
shrouded in his own absence;
from home comes the name of a boy no more,
of his school uniform adorning hangers,
of his absence sublimely deconstructive
of their superfluously foreign presence,
from home the names that resemble one another
in appearance and the diction of their representative bodies
are never stripped of their occurrence—not yet.

From home comes the news of a virgin autumn

dinning o’er the dales with apple harvest,
with fleecy tufts of cold breeze—early morning;

From home the news always reads:
“The spring shall never entertain until
the preceding winter freezes our roads,
without the military Trucks blemishing
their white façade—once and never”
From home the news reads like it reads my forehead,
and places on the silent lying postures of my borrowed bed
an unpredictable insomnia;
This news reads of the insomnia, bare eyes,
dark dreams and sometimes nothing too—few odd times;


From home comes the news of an impending winter,
barefoot and frostbitten, from the pale and thin
life of its predecessors—yet wounded and uncured;


From home comes the news:
“Jehlum shall retreat into your eyes,
engulf you at the prominence of your heartbeat,
drown you into the depths of your absenteeism,
resurrect you with the hands of your own longing”
and I look at another day’s news—from home—
till it reads of Jehlum, and Varmull, and barbed wires,
till it reads of the military trucks, and
our snow white roads under their blackened tyres!

[Ashfaq Saraf is a Kashmir-born writer. ‘The Harkening’ is his first collection of poems. All the poems published in this collection have been written between July 2010 and December 2011.]