“My Brother’s Keeper”

           On July 13, 2002, unidentified militants attacked the Qasim Nagar slum near Jammu, in            Indian Kashmir, killing 27. The militants arrived dressed as sadhus (Hindu holy men), carrying           automatic weapons and grenades in bags and among the folds of
          their robes.

Details kill me too.
What’s one pock-faced dead boy?
Who counts the dullest crime?
Why should it matter
the men with guns pretended
to be sadhus? When it comes
it’s all the same in holy robes,
creased khakis or brocades.
What if they hadn’t all been huddled
on the bania’s floor for a cricket match,
blow by blow, on All India Radio:
the batter’s whites, the hoarse crowd’s roar,
the headman’s cheek inking a record
of love on his neighbor’s sari blouse,
spattered sheet dumped down a well?
If I describe the line the dead boy drew
on the dirt floor of his home,
learning his letters with the sharp tine
of a chicken bone—Now you see,
it’s dirty work to make it shine.
How smooth the stone he carried
in his pocket? Round ones kept
under his bed, with plastic soldiers
and gum wrappers. You have to know
you can’t trust me. I save everything I see—
the cat carting away a thumb
into a bank of rose bushes,
and from the chinar tree
the crows are dropping bobby-pins.

This selection comes from Kirun Kapur’s poetry collection Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist, available now from Elixir Press. Purchase your copy here.

Kirun Kapur is the winner of the Arts & Letters Rumi Prize in Poetry and the Antivenom Poetry Award for her first book, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist (Elixir Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, FIELD, The Christian Science Monitor and many other journals. She has taught creative writing at Boston University and has been awarded fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Vermont Studio Center and MacDowell Colony. She is the founder and director of the North Shore arts program The Tannery Series and serves as Poetry Editor at The Drum Literary Magazine. She was recently named an “Asian-American poet to watch” by NBC news. Kapur grew up in Honolulu and now lives north of Boston.

Jane Huffman is a current MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a staff eDior for Sundress Publications. Her poetry is featured or forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Moon City Review, Radar Poetry, PHANTOM, Word Riot, The This Magazine, RHINO Poetry, and elsewhere in print and online. She lives in Iowa City, where she teaches literature in the University of Iowa English Department and serves on the poetry staff of The Iowa Review.


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