Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bhopal - To a Father and His Child

On the bhopal gas tragedy
(inspired by a photograph of a man’s hand trying to brush away a fly that has settled on the face of his dead child while she is being buried.  this was published as the cover of India Today, in the issue covering the tragedy)

your child cannot feel anymore
that fly upon her eye
so fret not, dear father
don’t drive it away.
can’t you see her eyes are lifeless?
can’t you hear the rhythm of death
in her silent pulse?

weep not, oh father
she needs no longer
the solace of your tears.

the form buried
under the graves of progress
is your child no more.
just a corpse.
she has no name anymore.
just a number.
the newspaper headlines are her

over the years
lawyers will debate
judges pronounce
and chairmen air their opinions at cocktail parties.
they will not mention the name of the child
that only last night
played in your lap
climbed over you
and giggled
and gurgled
and filled your world with the music
of her laughter
and her tears.

they will not remember
how she ran from her mother’s arms
at the sound of your motor-cycle down the road
or that cuddly warmth
the joyful, all giving embrace
of those tiny arms
as you lifted her up
and held her, and loved her
and dreamt your dreams of her
and the years ahead –
from toddler
to schoolgirl
to bride
to wife
to mother
to daughter forever
at your bedside.

in the darkness of her cradle
her toys lie untouched
with the mark of her grubby fingers
still on them
twisting your heart into a rock of numbness
a pain
that will never fade
never go away.

weep not, dear father
the world goes laughing by
and shouting and screaming
and clanging by.
the machinery has been overhauled
the motors hum –
mankind advances
to TV sets and VCRs
and super pesticides.
your daughter was just
another pest
in the path of progress.

walk away now, father.
her body is covered with earth.
let it shroud her face too.
walk away without memories
without pain
numbers can be reproduced
any computer will tell you that.

when tomorrow dawns
and you do not hear her stir
and cry for her milk
when you see her empty bed
when you feel your vacant arms
when you hear your empty heartbeats
you will know
that your daughter 
is dead.

never mind, though.
will live on
forever . . . . .

................................................................. paul mathew