Groundviews

Habeas Corpus

Featured image courtesy Amalini de Sayrah

We returned to the place
Where we were buried in a hurry
“Let’s look for our bodies,” we said
We searched the edge of the lagoon, the marsh
Where uniformed men said summary executions
Make great photos
Behind walls embroidered with bullet marks
Inside derelict schools and churches, graveyards and abandoned wells
We even trespassed the mined perimeter of the camp
Once again, we gazed into our own death

But found nothing!

We searched from sunup to sundown
Until the long shadows fell upon us
We dived into the seabed
Looked among ship-wrecks and seaweed
Scoured the debris at the bottom
All this we did in a disembodied state –
No heads, no legs, no arms and no beating heart

Yet, we found nothing!

Souls are of no use, I heard someone say
Broken-bodies their line of business
Dust to dust ashes to ashes; did I hear that right?
Is that an eternal truth?
Our corporality writhing in bloody hands
Then suddenly broken into hollow bits
Like idols of clay undone by the wrath of gods
Every morning, noon and night
They heaped us like broken images

In shallow graves among dull reeds

Those last moments full of theatricality
Euripides, at least now, hang your head in shame!
They played cats, we the rats between their teeth
Against a vast wasteland
A spectacle without spectators
The apotheosis of blood-lust
Gods blindfolded and shunted into darkness
Eyes plucked out of the Omniscient
So, why summon witnesses?
Didn’t we see with our own bodies?
But bear with us until we find them!

Have we come to the fag-end of the day?

We have to recover them!
Our bodies belong to us, as yours to you
Our bodies had names; every one of them
Birth marks and childhood scars
And a colour our mothers would never forget
Our bodies had a history, a story and a culture
Seared into every fiber and sinew
And our blood flowed

Like a red river

Our women had saffroned cheeks
Glowing like the waxing moon
Baubles of jasmine dangling from plaited hair
Beauty spots: a single blood-red bullet hole
Shot through their foreheads
Our men had holy ash across their face
Sacred beads dangling across bare-chests
Our old women, furrow-browed
From three decades of unceasing prayers
And prattling with dumb gods
But none of us found our bodies
Lamenting and weeping and mourning

We returned to where we came from!