Sonali Pattnaik (Colours of Love and Barriers)

Sonali Pattnaik
Sonali Pattnaik is a feminist poet, an educator, academic and artist. She is the author of a book of poems titled when the flowers begin to speak, Writers Workshop, India and is the recipient of The Orange Flower Award for Poetry, 2022. She has taught Literature in English for more than twelve years to students of Delhi University, Mumbai University and SNDT University and has a PhD in the same subject. She is mostly a self-taught artist and began writing poetry when she was thirteen. She is currently associated with St. Xavier's College Ahmedabad and is working on her upcoming book on Masquerade in Indian Cinema from Orient Black Swan.

facing love

it did not arise
the fact of her being a ‘Hindu’
the fact of him being a ‘Muslim’
for love was blind to such a thing
over which men draw swords
and draw invisible lines
that love must not cross

they saw in each other
the faces they wore
their hearts speaking
to one another
before religion
or community spoke
the only lines they saw
were scribbled across
the letters they wrote
seeped in the ink of want
beading and braiding
their whispers and touches
a garland of love they wove

love is a mother tongue
a language beyond and before
from an ever-present yore
an ancestral speech
common and manifold
scripted upon seeking eyes
drawn to be traced
by desiring fingers 
upon palms that read

even when not shown how
we never forget to utter
the sounds of love
in response to its primal call
a different kind of history repeats
when the lines of love meet

so, it was with them
who knew not what they crossed
when togetherness they sought
not surnames nor accoutrements
nor habits of hate nor bottled ghosts
what they saw in each other
was the face of love
a place of warmth
they could call home

they forgot that there were
already brick and kiln homes
that knew nothing beyond
arranging lives according
to what who wore
and to whom who was born
houses built upon convenience
vessels of discipline, denial
and sanctioned destruction
the lovers forgot that while
their hearts to one another spoke
their lives were bespoke

and as the they stepped into
the morass of reality
bathed in the dew of desire
bedecked as brides in love
imagining the world
to be spun of wool
stones turning petals
at their anointed feet
they did not know
that names and threads
and festering wounds
would turn people into guns
who would shoot 
shoot at the softest
thing living begot
the thing held up by consent
the thing that to power is dissent
the offspring of human possibility
that they would shoot at love

they called it honour
this drawing of innocent blood
from two desiring beings
who would not
be known as this or that
but lived as the rebellious beats
of each other’s human heart

their hearts caught fire
much before their bodies burnt
their gravestones now lie
besides each other
where there pillows ought
for power is a dark tunnel
in the face of love
a machine
that shot, ripped and hung
but not before it unentangled
from one another, the lovers’ arms
as one body they would fall

yes, it is true
that hate killed the lovers 
but hate slept awake
for it could not kill love

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