Army Stops

driving through assam

meant check points.

obsolete barricades, sand bag

piles heavy as sin.

a slowing down of journeys,

and tightening of air. terse

dialogue in hushed voices.

sometimes they came upon

us suddenly, those clusters

of brown-uniformed men,

waiting like a lazy hunting party.

and we would have no time,

before we stopped, to rearrange

our travelling lives – blankets,

pillows, food basket, slipped-off

shoes. just our faces.

mixture of drowsiness,

and surprise, a steady gaze when

torchlight sweeps across the seats

– hard, brisk and piercing.

sometimes, seeing me (I was eleven)

they’d wave us on without checking

the luggage, beneath the seats, front

or the back.

they always inspected the booth.

shadows fell like trees across

the windscreen, glint of barrel

in the queer moonlight,

metallic taste in my mouth.

always that moment of silence

before the engine came to life.

the slow shudder of movement,

suddenly the wind in my face,

an inexplicable feeling of escape.


Translated into Farsi for an anthology of poetry on peace


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