'Happenings', a new poem by Alamgir Hashmi


Her mother remembers how in the end
she died of third-degree burns from a kitchen fire,
and she can’t get over it, the cup of tea
her daughter made her every day
remains empty, with her gone under tonnes
of earth. Then, her brother shot in the head
by state agents for being a nice guy
not helping street crime. So many years ago,
blood soaked through the clothes he wore,
the clothes stolen by thieves who could not tell
the old wash from the new,
but the wound right there festers.
The neighbours’ boy hurt in crossfire
between vigilantes is still lying in hospital,
comatose. His father received his report card
from school the other day,
keeping the position to himself,
and retired to his room.
He said to his wife it was only junk mail.
Not seen for days on their lawn;
their curtains are always drawn.
Another heartache,
one that kills neat.
That bomb last week, some eighty splattered
in the bazaar, shopping for clothes, homewares.
The roadsides explode every day,
intention given to dynamite.
Ambulance service has a backlog,
and no one answers a phone call:
ma’am, please wait, goodbye, if at all.
Who can tell these folk
which terror they have been spared?
If you look for the truth or dare say why,
you’ll be gone before you can ask.
She sinks in her easy chair breathless,
morning paper on arm rest, trying to read.
She knows hearsay is as good as life:
for death is on the prowl,
meeting us day after day
so we can learn its fine pseudonyms.
Then she looks out the window
into the person-filled street.
Black cars, hearses, pass by as usual, zigzag.

Alamgir Hashmi

Alamgir Hashmi

Alamgir Hashmi has published eleven books of poetry and numerous volumes of literary criticism. He has been writing poetry and prose for fifty years, and has taught as a university professor in Europe, America, and Asia. Recent work appears in Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Meanjin, Westerly, Helix, Pen International, and Connecticut Review. A Pushcart Prize nominee and a Rockefeller Fellow, he has won many honours and awards for his work, some of which has been translated into European, Asian, and African languages.

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