“Remember me at the time of death, close down the doors of the senses and place the mind in the heart”
-The Bhagavad Gita
Night fires flicker in the thousands and thousands,
Bodies come one after another,
To be placed on funeral pyres,
There is not even time to say goodbye to the dead,
O India, O India, the raging fires that burn
in the hearts of your living.
In Delhi, the crematoriums are blocked with traffic,
Ambulances, trucks carrying innocents and those judged
to have offended the State—
All of them brought to the funeral fires.
Filtered sunlight has come upon the sultry air,
The wind breathes where those who once breathed, and can no longer breathe for companionship,
Nor to do their daily tasks,
Or take up that task of the humble warrior—
Arjuna who yearned to know glory from weapons,
Shiva bestowed upon him,
that mighty bow and arrow,
Even the gods must breathe
to live in the minds of men,
Oxygen that fuels life, now and forever among
the trees and banks of rivers,
Grief and despair among wooden pyres, smoke filling
The noonday sun turns into dark dusk on the mighty
Ganges River, where one bathes, and one prepares
for the final voyage.
Lord Krishna speaks not from tombs,
For his voice is the voice of the Indian people, In this time, and for all time,
And I heard from my own room in Québec City,
Words at the Ghazipur crematorium, “So many dead… It feels like if this continues, there will be no one left in Delhi.”,
I think of the ancient tragedies at Troy and Athens,
When plagues took down both invader and defender
of a homeland.
The air is pungent with the smell of smoke and fire,
Mangoes, pomegranates with bright, orange holy flowers laying, in their own immutable grief, among human ashes.
We shall remember the sirens blaring
in the streets of Indian cities.
And how shall history remember us,
Whether we live or die in India, or some other place
Red bangles lay on the plagued bodies,
Masked among the now living, and the unmasked
now among the dead,
And how much did we know of each other,
Before the wearing of masks?
At Ghazipur the eternal sun has set with her dead,
And pyres are raging again, flame upon flame,
The air filled with heat, private anger, the loss
for the beloved,
The roar and crackling of flame and wood,
We, like Arjuna, we go forward,
Amid the death shrouds of every Indian City.
The Indian labor, the farmers in West Bengal,
Those homeless in Noida,
We shall not forget their grief and sorrow.
We grieve, each in his or her way,
The funeral pyres scorching what we once were,
And now, in this time of sobbing,
with empty hands, and grief in our hearts,
India, we remember you.
Luis Lázaro Tijerina, Québec City, QC
May 1st, 2021 – Burlington, Vermont, 2022