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