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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

07 September, 2006

Coffee In Times of War...

Just the other day a friend asked
Have you ever tried war poetry?
War, I said, I haven’t seen one.
I was only born in seventy-one.
I’ve often seen pictures –
Oh why pictures! Even a painting
in a restaurant once –
of a Sikh General
making the Pakistanis
sign the surrender.
And then I grew up
reading lessons, history
about World War One and World War Two,
Plassey, Panipat, Waterloo,
War & Peace, The Day of Armistice,
the ancient tales of the Mahabharata,
the Muharram majlises, Karbala.

But then who needs textbooks these days?
Television brings Beirut live, like irrelevant foreplay.
And if this isn’t enough there are movies –
A Bridge too Far, Platoon, Killing Fields.

But no, I have never seen a war.
I don’t know what it means
to sit through blackouts, power outages,
to hold my breath and wait
for a bomb to detonate.
I don't know what it means
to have splinters of plastic and tin
pierce through my clothes, skin.
I don't know what it means
to lose an eye, to lose a limb.
I haven’t seen my child without her head.
I don’t know what it means
when a mother grieves for her dead.
The closest I have seen a man’s guts
split wide open was from a scene
in a movie called Saving Private Ryan.

I don’t know what it means
to run from desk to desk
in a dank office corridor
asking for compensation
for a son dead in a war.

I don’t know…

My words trailed in the wispy heat
of Delhi’s August afternoon street.

My friend cursed himself
for bringing this topic up,
dunked his biscuit in his coffee,
as I waved to the waiter,
May we have more of these, please!

© Dan Husain
August 23, 2006

PS: This version is a stanza shorter than the one on my blog. I felt it was unnecessary. Thanks.



Blogger david raphael israel said...

wonderful. "I don't know" is indeed the formulation for an expanding knowing. (Through the sieve of "I don't know" passes whatever one knows.) And what one knows (passing through "I don't know") remains worth knowing.

07 September, 2006 10:10  
Blogger abhigyan said...

very nice DAN. one of the best on caferati.
to everyone else: see the difference subject matter makes. Dan's mind seems to have stirred with this 'matter' and the form has simply taken off.

the only exercise writers need is the exercise of what? more you think about the what and express, the how takes care of itself. it is called the principle of 'simplicity'. nature is complex yet it takes the shortest, easiest route to accomplish anything.

great work, DAN!

07 September, 2006 16:15  
Anonymous dominic franks said...

hey dan, thats a killer poem. among the best that i read here on the caferati and there are many that i have liked, but this one gripped me. in awe...feel small, like there's a helluva long road to walkj and don't have the time or pen's not supple enough to make the vault

but it's all good
all is well...
the wolf

07 September, 2006 20:44  
Blogger Mahfuuz said...

Donning the garb of an Ignoramus
he spoke of war and its futility
of mayhem, blood and gore
of the aftermath and the affected
of ancient history, the near past and present

Even I haven’t seen a war
Though my mother says
I was born when one was on
Perhaps, those days have left a sign
For I still wonder why people should fight

26 September, 2006 09:36  

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