by Huma Sheikh
|A bitter winter in Srinagar had just started to ease when the latest crisis in Kashmir was sparked on 14 February. That afternoon a local member of a Pakistan-based militant group rammed a car laden with explosives into a bus carrying Indian paramilitaries. The explosion was heard for miles around. At least 40 people were killed, the highest death toll from a single attack in the history of the insurgency. Above: A Kashmiri Muslim woman looks on as Indian government forces stand guard after clashes with separatist protesters. Photograph: Yawar Nazir/Getty Images. —The Guardian, March 2, 2019|
No matter what the glistening forms
in blue cosmic wings tell me, I see
drones soaring in despair.
I left Kashmir lives ago and my veins
drained of past gore,
hallucinate in this world—Florida’s panhandle,
pounding, floating wraiths, spanning the distance,
Rumi’s chaotic freedom.
Today, on the internet, a deceased trooper's daughter wailing;
forty mugshots scrolling the dead across the screen;
Kashmiri students, children of Indian Kashmir,
disappearing in Dehradun dungeons,
eyes of Sikh keepers burning a storm—protestors’ roar outside;
Kashmiri traders in Lucknow, whipped and kicked;
pack animals, carrying identity wares.
How to rebuild a sense of refuge when hope beans spill,
dissolve, in a battle?
Hadn’t these students, traders, escaped warfare in Kashmir?
Deaths bloom for the kith of the slain;
memories of dear ones an endless crackle of real flesh storm
dropping to ashes.
For Kashmiris still there,
war an everyday meal,
some eat, some fast by chance.
I question violence;
India and Pakistan’s territorial land-grab war,
ask myself if voicing feelings,
otherness, isn’t transcending bitterness?
Kashmir floats with me even here,
new crises piled on old ones—
a pedantic coop, winged prison,
war crumb confetti.
I do the ant’s painstaking
weight lifting of fragments—
Huma Sheikh is originally from Kashmir, currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at Florida State. Her prose and verse have appeared in various journals and magazines. A memoir and book of poems are in progress.