Vol. 4 Num 274 Sat. March 06, 2004  

A TO Z, AZAD (for Humayun Azad)

Something is dying in us
and we watch in bewilderment;

it was perhaps the best thing
in us, and with all our niggling flaws
marked us still as human:

we thought the world
or at least our corner of it
could be made
if not better
at least less bad,

but it's only getting worse--
looks like we've been had.
True, we won a war--
or at least a Victory Day
but more than what we won's
at stake in battles that rage
around us every day.
To live and let live
is a philosophy
minced with butcher's knives
the thinking mind must reiterate
before the powers that be
and the powers that are desperate
to be the powers that be
some simple lessons of civilization:

Ballot-box democracy is meaningless
without nomocracy (please
look it up
in a dictionary--
you need a big one for this,
I'm afraid)

To say there is no world
but what we make with words
and what we call truth
is only a construct
may be delectable
postmodern fashion
for academic consumption
but to make untruth with words
is nothing but to lie

And to drag God's name down
into the gutter of politics
is utterly flagitious
or monstrously insane

To be azad, to be free
to walk, talk, write, sing,
love, draw, dance
is the A to Z of life,
the rest is death

I could go on and on
but why be schoolmasterly?
I could take a cue from Magritte
and write:
despite the hint of metre
and the desultory rhyme
Ceci n'est pas un poeme---
I'll adapt some words
from sombre Wilfrid Owen
, killed on the Sambre Canal
, whose spirit still haunts the literate:

I am not concerned here with Poetry.
My subject is Life, and the protest
against the enemies of Life.
The Poetry is in the Protest.

Kaiser Huq teaches English at Dhaka University.