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After I stone the neighbour’s

windows, I close my eyes.

It is 1999. I am 7 & this

will remain proof

some crimes are forgiven.


In a siege, Kashmiris say, dilliwallahs

will die in 10 days. And Kashmiris?

They barrel rations for months.


Monika, I too live alone & press

heavy furniture against the doors.

If they come for me, it will still look

like I walked into their jaws

& collapsed the teeth-gate behind me.


At 4:53 PM (I remember because one

day the police will ask me) in June

when the sun burns the brightest

a man follows me in his car, not

afraid to be seen. If I disappear,

ask the autowallahs in the vicinity

who have watched out for me.


My friend flips off a security guard

when he asks her to drive slow.

A gaali is not a gun but men running

toll booths at night or patrolling the

perimeters of gated colonies are often

the first to die & my friend’s hand remains

on the gearbox, in control of her life.


When I release a stone, I learn

an elbow is a fulcrum & an arm

tilted back a matter of

applying a physics concept

to a power play.


On a dry riverbed in South Kashmir,

a group of ten year olds use a log

to form a blockade. Why have you come?

For the millet that grows in your tehreek,

for pulses that rise in unforgiving weather.


The terrace is where

the tank is & the window

is with vine & an eye

cannot always be an eye

& this is what a shadow

uses to climb.

Monika, to stop grieving I dreamt

your jasmine branches turned

into wrought iron beams &

curled his neck as he slept.

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