On Why the Subaltern Can Speak, But Doesn’t! (for GCS and the Rickshaw-wallah who will never read Post Colonial Theory)*

 (for GCS and the Rickshaw-wallah who will never read Post Colonial Theory)

 

He cycles in yellow light

perforated by drizzle. Each peddle stroke

dislodging a branch

from that curved spine –

only to sink back

into a crumpled bag holding blood,

purple heart, bones,

lung charred by bidi smoke –

It is odd, such motion

occurs at all – calf muscles,

churning cycle chain like time or dough,

are black metal or lead depending

on the time of the day. He speaks of

the heat, the daily rent of the rickshaw,

his daughters’ education. The cry of an owl

mingles with sounds of a television

running at a shanty. He catches the commentary, happy

that one more wicket is down. His head is a jaunty ball now,

the rickshaw slowly loosening grip of the road.

Seen in the yellow of a lamp post, something is slowly

coming alive at the back of his shirt,

marching over the brown map of his neck

like a determined army –

 

a howl, static, before

taking wings, hits his head,

splattering space with a gurgling choke

 

and then

 

my voice

beating

the wet, wet asphalt.

 

 

he too had a heart –

it translated him.

 

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**Appeared in Sahitya Akademi’s anthology on contemporary Indian poetry, titled 21st Century Indian Poetry in English (Jan: Feb 2017, Edited by AJ Thomas)

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