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After Dorianne Laux’s “Kissing”

They are kissing at gunpoint. They
know they cannot be caught kissing.
They are kissing as though the chinars
never saw any bloodshed, only lipstick.
Asifa is grown up now, she’s kissing
her love and her horses are dancing
the grass is erupting in joy, the valley
is rushing in its unviolated grace
because they are kissing. They’re kissing.
They are kissing on a country boat
thick over the roaring flood. They
are making the char silt turn alabaster
under their starry eyes and swoon.
They’re humming their old Miya songs
calling out their fire-birds and ghosts
slapping the fish smells on to their
tongues and they are simply kissing.
They are kissing because they do not
want to become burnt flesh, lynched
bodies, severed mangled limbs but
they want to become one. Junaid
wearing back his bloodied skull cap
is kissing his heartthrob, Ishrat Jahan
pulling down her bullet-riddled kurta
is kissing her prince charming in this
fairy tale. Lips honey, tongue all roses.
They are kissing in faraway Majidbhita,
Imphal, Anantnag, Kandhamal, railway
platforms, bus stops, parks, chai shops
city streets, your carefully manicured
lawns and gated naked neighborhoods.
They are kissing before the next pellet
gun blinds another school kid, before
the next attack maims that dreamy
cowherd, the next brutes snatch away
the body, the heartbeat, the tears.
It’s their rage, it’s their beautiful
longing for a clear sky, it’s their
hands becoming tree branches, it’s
their torsos turning summer’s fireflies,
it’s their mouths free to kiss and speak,
it’s their saliva tasting love’s warm rice.
They are kissing right now in Unnao,
in Khammam, in Kunan-Poshpora. They
are kissing on this page, in between
these smudgy words and ink stains
because it is their only rebellion, only
region, only map, their only religion.
For God’s sake shut your mouth now
For they simply are just kissing.

Nabina Das is a renowned Indian poet with three collections to her credit, viz Blue Vessel, Into the Migrant City and Sanskarnama.

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2 Comments

  1. abubenadhem says:

    I am grateful to Countercurrents for helping me learn about the immensity and complexity of India, so far away and complicated that I have ignored it for many decades. Today, I am grateful for learning about you and your poetry and–through you–about another excellent poet near my residence (but previously unknown to me). Thank you for celebrating the kiss as a vital, universal human act to transcend the also universal banality, venality and violence of the world. I read and kiss your words and will look for more.

  2. What a terrific poem. Brilliant! It reminds me of Neruda.