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Arts & Culture

They Are Taking Them Away

The poem is set in 1971 where the writer was a young Assistant Commissioner traumatized to see the civil war madness around him and the indifference and stupidity of the “lords of men” in Islamabad. Four of his batch mates were butchered in their districts. He survived by a miracle. It was Russian roulette.The poem poured out of the writer in the early hours, half asleep, after he was posted back to Peshawar.

Sullen shine the stars
the moon in agony aloof
so still stand the palm trees
the seasons are bearing
my dreams away

Sanity
suspended
while all the black
horrors of the mind
uncoil
slowly
snakely
settle
over this land

They came by night
they came in shame
they came
to take the weapon and the woman

My throat
was dry
and chilled
my groin, for

They are taking them away
to the slaughter houses

Have you ever seen
a child’s head crushed like a coconut
or a proud man cry like a baby
women, like broken toys,
on the rail tracks to Santahar Junction
bright flags fluttering from their thighs
does it now matter
which side did this
or why

They were playing these games with death
over there in the green lands of Bengal

In the year of the lord 1971

Oh the storm that raged
under the blue Bengal sky
within man,
and without him,

When rape was relief
death a desire
and killing a kindness.
Mama, hide me in your arms, for

they are taking them away
to the slaughter houses

Incest in the air
foul vapors in every mouth
will nobody care
to break this awful spell

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The Major swore he saw
rows of what looked like
round loaves of brown bread
in the Government College dining hall:

These were sliced off my sisters;
(while they writhed alive in the dormitories above).
I’m curled, cursed
and cold
alone
in the night’s chill womb, for

They are taking them away
to the slaughter houses

Can all the waters of the Bay
all the tears of the Orient
wash the red stains and ugly scars?

Of hate
inflicted
in that single moment of suicide
compelled by an irresistible lust
for self-destruction

When a house is empty
the family missing
and silence a way of life
the nights get chilly
the nights get lonely
and in the night
strong men break down to cry, for

They are taking them away
to the slaughter houses

When Bihar’si fate was sealed
and Bengali destiny designed

When the scythe was an argument
and the bullet an answer

The lords of men
gods of pain
have taken council:
the unholy juggernaut will move
it is decreed
and none to challenge it
what compulsions drive such men
what fear makes them such savages
while reason, so thin on the breast,
deserts so quickly

Who was martyr
which one saint
depended only
on the language he spoke;
to such a fine point
is the concept of alienation reduced; for

There is no shame like the shame of
taking them away to the slaughter houses.

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