There Are No Names For This War

Sebin James

Years have been unkind to my dead weight and its splintered flesh;
He wakes up bruised and battered, gets all worked up on purpose.
I call him all the bad words; he is a bastard, the nothingness of uncertainty,
Part and parcel of mediocre mockery made out of false promises.
Its early morning, and he leaves copies of two weeks' notice inside my drawers,
Before I am off to work, that demands an immediate raise in the serotonin graphs.
We have a situation; but I have stubbornly pretended that I know
What I am doing my whole life, like my prime minister.

Tonight, somewhere out on the streets, someone drunk out of his wits
Will place a bet on madmen fighting for dog bones.
And when that happens,
I can toss in another act of kindness without false hopes;
Stray cats will become my doormen while
I pay my day dues in kind to the grim reaper on time.
There will be faces like wet weekends on the kitchen counter
To keep me from weeping on the floor;
They will insist on taking taxis when they are leaving,
And some of them will wait,
Until they get hold of over-the-counter Prozac and alcohol
Hidden behind the spice racks.
Then, there comes a time for my nightmares,
Macabre spectacles in which I am alone on my side of the bed,
Hands hanging low, picking up coarse stones out of the mosaic floor.
I am crushing and rubbing them between the tenderness of human skin
Till it peels away the layers of hardened rocks,
Till they and my hands bleed out, till we fill into the hollows on the floor.

I wake up from my dreams, and it just isn’t over in the dark;
So, I will ring up my sisters, time zones apart, in the middle of the night.
Even if they don't know it by now, these are distress calls and
Erased voice mails and triple beep sounds in trouble,
Crying out for help in incognito mode,
Asking them about the times they were shortly into performing arts,
Their rendition on the streets of our dying grandmother and
Its name that I still can't shake off from my head,
'Jewels of Reminiscence or Remnants of a Jewel?'
'Jewels of Reminiscence. What are you doing up so late?'
It will follow head banging and body rocking
Till I roll out of the bed to break the locks of our storeroom,
Too sure that I have left an old copy of Norwegian Wood inside,
Because I have never dared to read or write or see what's scarily relatable twice;
I leave them at an arm's length where I can't see or smell or touch them twice.

But there will be no signs of Murakami in those trunks,
For I have become too good at lying to myself in broad daylight and before judges.
Instead, there will be letters, more letters,
And more love letters of my mother stuffed beneath old lecture notes.
I wouldn't mean to pry, but I cannot resist words
Burning like Molotov cocktails in her desire street,
Hurled at citizenship registries that left her lover out of the rolls.
Her civil war slogans begin with 'Chiche' as if
She is immortalizing the martyrdom of her lynched comrade,
And this letter is a live procession to leave him in the burning sunflower fields.
The marching ends where she spills red blood from
Her machete-wielding hands on her birth certificate and let it burn,
Burn, like it's going to fuel her revolution.
Once it's done,
She orders for rifle salutes with carnations kept in the muzzles of barrels,
And I know by now that any man who doesn't light himself on fire
Hearing her words is in a fool's paradise.

But time flies, states have a post-revolutionary stabilization period
When commanders are pushed to the sidelines and
Freedom flags witness a power shift to spineless diplomacy.
They will settle for watered-down versions of the reforms fought for;
It will be abused, worn out and torn out by state capitalists,
Before you know, it slips into centrism and mental illness,
Strictly in that order;
The transition of my motherland began
When my founding father made it obvious that
He was sleeping with his racist mistress.
Two decades are over, now she warns me not to squander away my youth
For socialism in a Hindu nationalist state
Over the scheduled phone calls from a market-driven state.

My mother doesn't know that
I have already led anarchist movements for love overseas,
Fitting in as a pirate in stolen ships, and failing miserably.
There were only the beginning and the end in the coroner's inquest;
The beginning; my nose tip becoming a spade,
Digging between collarbones to plant magnolias in place of post-harvest stubble.
The end; both of us, the survivors,
Are still petty con artists changing tricks, who haven't changed,
Who want nothing to do with the Police and their bloodhounds the day after.
We made separate plans to flee the town,
Bought tickets to take us out of the sea town
Before its Ferris wheel weekends and fortune wheels.
Two days into our tragedy, they asked around the sea shell shops
About the storm that tossed away the sails.
No one knew about it; none of them saw the empty helm
When we were supposed to steer away from the maelstrom.
Those of us on the high waters were hosting a soggy deck party to drink to our vices;
We smashed all the lamps on the lonely deck,
So she could corner me over the rubbles of filaments burning down,
And fold ear shells on ear lobes to make me feel the cold of frostbitten arms holding her,
While I was spelling out a deadpan disaster in her droopy eyes with dry winter lips.
It came unannounced at the stroke of midnight,
When the wind knocked over the last bottle of cheap chardonnay;
Serves well, the long haul we were in it for.
The third leg of our wobbling table, an amorous object of passion,
Toppled by the unruly waves.
Blink, Thud, Blurry Details, and Blank spaces.

So, when you ask me something as simple as the reason behind
Cold blue hearts barricading fierce red ones over a text,
I can only tell you that I have been nitpicky with fishing nets
Where my words are caught and lodged,
That I choose red on anything except matters of the heart,
Because I can already see it turning blue, and
You can't ruin someone you haven't touched yet for the mush.
There are no more sins and sermons, everything changes from tomorrow;
Tomorrow, I am going to knock and leave
Marxist papers and milk cartons on doorsteps,
And I will keep O-rings off the hydraulic cylinders of the heart
Even if it's going to run the fate of a space shuttle disaster.
Give me back our shared secrets and liberate me from self-inflicted amnesias;
Please, I will beg you another three hundred and thirty three times, please.
This is another war to wreck the system; I am embracing socialism again,
Before it’s too late.

I am borrowing old copies of all the books I haven't read from public libraries,
Tomorrow or the day after that, this is just a pipe dream, that
I can lay my hands on Norwegian Wood in a non-catalogued shelf of donated books.
Because remembering is not going to break my heart as much as
Forgetting everything worth remembering.


  • This is one splendid piece of literature!

    Anu Swaraj
  • This touches those who understand it. Well articulated. Commendably written. ❤

    Aravind Sreekumar
  • The words just speak to you, it’s so beautiful. :)

    Sreenath J
  • Deeply rooted lines. Perfect depiction of concealed emotions . Beautiful work

  • I can’t believe how perfectly sized this poem is. It’s literally the perfect length🔥💥

  • Wow beautifully written ❣️❣️

    Hari Vadayil

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