Did you see a hapless, hunted woman, baby in arms? Her stare’s hollow.
Ahead of her, there’s a slithering line beaded with nowhere people. At its head, clerk behind
office-window makes cuts and bruises on paper, scribbles a million
names. He’s shallow, disconcerted. Mammoth misadventures are taking shape on rolls of data.
She drags her feet preparing to be disowned soon; disarms the clerk with hopeful eyes and a
in her sunken cheeks. Clerk can’t help much. She’s a pest.
Because Machiavellian State wants to weed them out, shoot them down; adopts laws more
ruthless than crime. Every time
the queue moves, tiny tremors rock the fraying social fabric. Refugees unwelcome.
In her village, machetes draw boundaries on bodies. Fanatics run amok. Once they were born
equals. Or so she thought. Not anymore. She retires to where
crimson spills dye the land.
Rattle-bodies are herded out to camps; the rest may prove kinship and live in ant-clusters, or, do
the rounds like cattle in an oil-mill — circles
that leads to nowhere.
She marvels at their appetite for counting people. Ours and others. Men, nay, they’re masters!
Grave of democracy. Or, are these wars
of inequalities, cloaked in games — of alienation?
Because ascribing identities of faith or caste is easier than giving rights or livelihood. Because
equality is a bad word, they
aim to guard and seal the spaces lives have taken up.
Where existence has spread like fluid water, they attempt to entrap by concertina wires. And
station uniformed soldiers at posts like
puppets on a drawstring.
She grieves. The baby wails. Startling fact is: days pass. She hopes in another world. Another
time. In a realm, fact or fiction,
beyond the threshold of her tiny home. Every land where
dignity in work and food in hungry mouths is not too much to ask; where she’s not a discard; fate
lines not drawn by that clerk.
She toils in another life by another name.
MANDIRA PATTNAIK‘s (she/ her) recent poems have appeared in Prime Number Magazine, The Fourth River, The Shore, West Trestle Review, Opia Mag, Thimble, Variant Lit, Feral Poetry and Eclectica Magazine. Her work has received commendations and multiple nominations including for the Pushcart Prize 2021 & 2022.
ROSABEL ROSALIND was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. In 2017, she received her BFA in printmaking, painting, and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Rosabel has been included in group exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hyde Park Art Center, and the Jewish Museum of Maryland. In 2018, Rosabel was a recipient of a Fulbright Austria Combined Grant, where she did research at the Jewish Museum Vienna in their Schlaff Collection of anti-Semitic objects and postcards. As a result of this work, Rosabel has exhibited in solo exhibitions at Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier and Improper Walls Gallery. Rosabel is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University.