First came the scream of the dying
in a bad dream, then the radio report,
and a newspaper: six shot dead, twenty-five
houses razed, sixteen beheaded with hands tied
behind their backs inside a church…
As the days crumbled, and the victors
and their victims grew in number,
I hardened inside my thickening hide,
until I lost my tenuous humanity.
I ceased thinking
of abandoned children inside blazing huts
still waiting for their parents.
If they remembered their grandmother’s tales
of many winter hearths at the hour
of sleeping death, I didn’t want to know,
if they ever learnt the magic of letters.
And the women heavy with seed,
their soft bodies mowed down
like grain stalk during their lyric harvests;
if they wore wildflowers in their hair
while they waited for their men,
I didn’t care anymore.
I burnt my truth with them,
and buried uneasy manhood with them.
I did mutter, on some far-off day:
‘There are limits,’ but when the days
absolved the butchers, I continue to live
as if nothing happened.
Robin S Ngangom is a bilingual poet and translator who writes in English and Manipuri. He was invited to the UK Year of Literature and Writing in 1995, has read his poems at literary events in India and abroad, and his poems have appeared in several prestigious anthologies and magazines. He has also co-edited two significant anthologies of poetry from Northeast India. His latest book, My Invented Land (Speaking Tiger, New Delhi), appeared in 2023.