Book Three: 1

It was a forlorn eve,
                            my descent wintry.
                                                        In that foreign midnight,
I sounded
                            the chanceries of doubt
                                                        as day drove up
in an ordinary yellow cab.
                            To my astonishment,
                                                        I seemed to be blindfolded
but the clock
                            —talk     talk—
                                                        continuing called me,
a voice ever stranger
                            in complaint.
                                                        With my staff I came
to the first step,
                            sanguine indeed,
                                                        and dressed in a well-cut Western suit
—quite the best I saw on anybody
                            during my whole stay
                                                        in that unstable regime.
There were people in plots
                            bowing to creation.
                                                        Please I protested,
I had not come to stay,
                            You will go in
                                                        said Nobody,
all will be quiet.
                            I looked down
                                                        and could see thousands
crowding into the grounds
                            —my     my—
                                                        and climbed into the burial site.
Within the twisted
                            rows of graves,
                                                        the teeth of under,
some spoke of hatred
                            and some of hope.
                                                        Blind, they wept on command,
in wheelchairs,
                            on crutches,
                                                        waving stumps.
It was rather haunting—
                            the gates of shadows,
                                                        the path unlit,
and ahead,
                            also dark,
                                                        an abandoned fortress.
Carried along by the crowd,
                            our way lit by flashlights
                                                        through dim corridors,
I said Citizens,
                            no     no.
                                                        Ahead, a door opened.
I recognized the old council
                            sitting round a table,
                                                        some in religious collars,
the atmosphere a court.
                            Chairing the proceeding,
                                                        a tall, bearded figure
uttered a few words in German,
                            for my benefit.
                                                        He had lived for a time
and remarked
                            that I needed
                                                        to be dealt with.
Listening quietly,
                            I tried to avoid
                                                        any show of emotion.
This clearly displeased him.
                            He seemed to expect me
                                                        to present my own commentary.
I said in reply
                            the following,
                                                        shaken and uneasy,
the slim thread of truth but little help . . .

Srikanth Reddy, “Book Three: 1” from Voyager. Copyright © 2011 by Srikanth Reddy. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.
Source: Voyager (University of California Press, 2011)
More Poems by Srikanth Reddy