Poetry: Rajnish Mishra

Rajnish Mishra

There were eighteen


There were eighteen children last week, many of them infants.
They died before reaching safe camps.
Their deaths were ‘preventable’ says a report.
They would have lived if helped earlier in their exodus.

Were they just ‘Syrian’ infants? Or just infants?
Forced to flee from their own land. Forced to freeze and die.
No food, no shelter, and open sky raining fire.
It’s reported: ‘The situation in Al Hol is dire’.

The caliphate collapsed, and the dogs of war were let loose.
They tore the flesh, spilled the blood and chewed on human bones.
The god on earth, the lord of the States, did his best to help.
The world shed two tears, and half, and sent wishes,

From its heart,
as they died.

A wall is a wall is a wall

In Xanadu does Kubla Khan call for a wall.
Like the Great Wall of China, it’ll be seen from the moon.

‘What does it signify, the wall?’ they ask, ‘Does he mean
just a fence by it, or a real fifty feet high wall’?

They want a fence, with space enough for elephants to sneak in!
He wants ‘no windows’ in it. Why should a wall have windows?

That too the new Great Wall? There was another wall,
Not a long time ago, between an East and a West.

It held bodies, checked souls and stymied the flight of spirits.
Walls have always been effective. Oh Lord let him never say,

‘We’re not doing the wall”. Frost may not have liked walls,
he mended them alright. Let’s make it smart, the wall,

not like the ones from the Dark Ages, and call it, why not? “Peach”!
A wall is a wall is a wall, and by any other name will hold, check and stymie well.

Innocence lost

A father is born once more with his child
and lives once more in the Eden: its eyes.

I did not want that twinkle leave my child’s eyes,
if not ever, then at least as long as she remained a child.

When does it end nowadays, childhood?
Once it used to be eleven, no, ten. Or was it nine?

Back then, in my time, inocence was stretched beyond ten.
Nowadays, in her times, it ends at seven, or six, maybe.

She knows, for instance, when to look away form the screen.
She also knows the laws of attraction.
She knows that girls and boys are..., um, different.

They talk, those children her age, among themselves.
They know much more than I think they do.

I can now feel how He must have felt,
when He had seen that innocence lost

in the eyes of the first man,
his pride, his child.


Yes, I live


Do you remember the first time your paper kite
rose in the air, spiraled, went down once, then up?
I remember

how I watched and cheered from my terrace while you
strove to hold your spool and fly it from yours.
I remember

how your mother came running when we shouted with glee.
I remember the proud gleam, her eyes.
I remember

many more things; days, faces, neighbours.
That time is gone, long gone are you, and they.
I pass

through my days and nights mostly in a world
where you, and they don’t belong. Yet 
I think

(when I have time to think) of those times for time
is a place where I go and live once more the past.
Yes, I live.


For write I must!


I wrote after twelve at night, after everyone
at home had gone to sleep, for nearly a week.
I had heard from those who know that it helped,
Well, it didn’t.

So I changed the method. I wake up now before others,
at 6, and write. Why do I do that (not, why I wake up)?
Why do I write?

Because that's my gift, probably the only gift I have.
I write to please myself.
I need to rise; I need to write,
for that is my gift, probably the only gift.

So, I write.
I write at three.
I write at five.
I write whenever others are asleep
and there's no sound around. 

For write I must!

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