"Is oppression first felt in the body?" On George Floyd, and other poems by Cheshta Rajora

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"Is oppression first felt in the body?" On George Floyd, and other poems by Cheshta Rajora

Poetry by Cheshta Rajora

History lessons in oppression

Is oppression

first felt in the body?

blacks slaving on cotton in 1850, wanting more sun for their skin, more skin for their love, more love for their soul, soul, alive and undefeated. not knowing their unfreedom, until the sound of chains rattling their necks crept into their ears; ropes fire torture thirst hunger starvation; my ancestress carrying a mouthful of spit, lest it spills massacres on their street, wanting more mouth to talk, howl, wanting more street for the body, more body to follow her un-free feet into light and desire

so when important men say they want my freedom,
do they also mean my un-free body?

what can they teach me about courage?

***

spine

what does it mean to hold a book in your hand
and read not only for yourself
but also those you call your blood,
both dead and alive,
who could not see schools, universities, workplaces?

how much and how fast can two eyes read? can two eyes become the vision of the past and future? is any spine made strong enough to not crack at the midriff? mine, the books'? how far do we travel to cover the distance that has been denied us? how many cities to reclaim? how many streets to walk so finally we can taste the smouldering tarmac with our tongue and secretly echo into the hollow conch of our hearts, “we have met as promised?” how many times do we sing the old, centuries-old beat of the heart, "I.., I..I." so we are heard? these streets shaped like veins carry our blood to your courts, police stations, and universities; the streets bleed; our blood trickles into your courtrooms and classrooms.

For George Floyd who was killed en route a promised destiny

***

Amphibian loves

'you talk?'
I talked

'speak in silence'--
silence spoke

for decades
for decades

sentences sprawl like weed
without full stops
without cadence

we play underwater
blue wave breaking into a blue wave
seamlessly
without full stops

our love
an instruction manual
is it like the birth of the universe?
it happened so slow
and decisively
that memory fails

until I saw light
warm and secretive under the oceans
and finally, water melted
water crashed

I reached the shore, felt the shape of the earth

and earned my silence

***

Biblical Brokenness

Your home was ravaged,
So was mine.

But, some stories of oppression are
as old as language,
when the first time man drew symbols in blood in caves that belonged to all,

and later enunciated whole sentences,
to tell how darkness is dangerous,
and how light is his, and only his.
God said let there be light and there it was.

Some stories of oppression are as old as the first time light dispelled a certain darkness.

Some have always lurked in darkness.
You, only now.

***

Cheshta is a final year student of law at Delhi University. She is deeply interested in the intersections of caste, class, and gender in society. As a Dalit poet, she uses the written word to reflect upon her lived experiences, and rage against caste stereotypes in literature. Poetry helps to reclaim her human value. Her poems, short story, and a non-fiction essay have appeared in UGC approved Muse India, Coldnoon Journal, Countercurrents respectively.

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