Gains & Losses
History of a Nation

Of course you didn't read all these
in a history book in a country where the history spreads
its black petals in people's memory
when they are asleep.  Where pensive cathedrals emerge
from the rebels' graveyard, when someone discovers a decimated butterfly
in a basket of eggplants or finds the cadaver of a ceremony dove
buried under the pumpkin vine.  Your parents call him Uncle Rauf,
so do you until you hear that a proclamation has been issued against him.
It is so hard to account for profit or loss
in a farmer's market where Uncle Rauf sells potato and spinach
heaped in jute sacks and his young daughter helps her father
by spreading tiny bunches of cilantros over a plastic sheet.
It isn't hard to imagine how gossip flies in a city
where the pigeons act as mailmen and you realize one day
another classmate of yours stopped attending the school
because in the last math test, there were questions on return on investment
made by his family during the civil mutiny.  You have no idea how
to read the palms of ripe tomatoes
or the fate of watermelons when a mad king releases his wild elephants
on the street after his personal musician commits suicide.
It is not that easy to chronicle the history of a country
where the weather etches the faces of its lost rulers
on the rocks strewn across the shore of the Arabian Sea
and where personal reflections light the paintings
drawn by the cavemen on the walls of the Himalayan caverns.
Then someday, when the sky is cloudy again, when
rains over the canal water capture waves,
touching fish eyes with wet fingers,
you realize you miss a few faces.  From a red balcony.
a pair of derisive eyes speak directly to you.

Picture Credit: Rem Koolhaas' proposal for a new European Union flag.

Copyright 2009,  Sankar Roy

Sankar Roy, originally from India, is a poet, translator, activist and multimedia artist.  He is a winner of PEN USA Emerging Voices.  Roy is author of three chapbooks of poetry:  Moon CountryThe House My Father Could Not Build,  and Mantra of the Born-free (all from Pudding House, 2006, 2007).  He is an associate editor of the anthology Only the Sea Keeps: Poetry of the Tsunami (Rupa Publications).

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