This week’s provocative piece comes to us from Lopa Banerjee of Nebraska. Banerjee wrote this piece “in honor of Jyoti Singh, killed in the abominable ‘Nirbhaya’ incident of gang rape in New Delhi, India, in December 2012.”
The fluid lines and affecting, haunting images of the poem pull the reader in to the dark and sinister world where no woman is safe.
Watching Over the Night
The flesh of the night hangs loose, stale,
Around the cryptic cities where I roam.
My skull, the tautness of my skin,
My bones, joints, fatty cells
And flesh in between, the conduits of my blood
All dried, nibbled on, burnt away.
The pitch dark sky creeps, moonless,
Laughing with its vicious fangs.
Glowing was the night as we had soaked in
The sweetest breath of her descent.
The night had shone in our bodies.
The two of us, young lovers,
Brimming with moonlight
In the city bus, gazing from the window
At the luscious asphalt sky.
We were returning home from a feast of a film
The flawless, vital light of the night
Wrapped us, shadow-like.
Nearby somewhere, that night, black owls screeched
Serpents crawled over us, coiled around me in
Vehement strokes and shoving.
The window of our moon-watching banged shut.
Inside the bolted bus,
The smothering, the cussing, the shoving
Bathed me in blood.
Far into the night,
The pallid moon crooned feverishly.
They kicked away my body and
That of my bleeding lover boy.
Together in the naked city streets
We moaned—raggedy, rickety, forlorn,
The pestilence of death hovered.
The nation adorned me with a name, Nirbhaya
The Fearless, an unwanted martyrdom.
My music died out in the hospital room.
The tongue of the moon licked away
The residues of my rotted flesh.
My blood crystalized.
My parents kissed me between
The dead veins of my forehead, and burnt my body,
Or whatever remained in the name of it.
Stripped of the flesh, skin and bones,
My arid spirit roams, a nightmare
In the dusty, billowing wind.
Thump, thump, thump—my unseen footsteps
Crush the dark night’s crevices.
I am loved much where I belong now,
Sheltered, in the dense canopy of the sky.
Deep inside, I bleed every night,
I wander, in the dark womb of the cities.
In the dead of the night, I whisk and burn,
Speed across buses, autos flaring with huge flashlights.
I know—somewhere inside every city’s dark trenches,
A woman is breaking into a million shards.
This event is a difficult subject to approach and Banerjee has done it with grace, empathy, and emotion. The embodiment of Singh’s dislocated voice is haunting and will linger with us long after the poem ends.
Join us next week for another great piece of poetry!
‘Watching Over the Night’ was originally published 8 February 2015 on Banerjee’s blog, Reflections, Ruminations, Illuminations.