Abhijit Sarmah is a poet and researcher of global indigenous writing, with particular focus on Native American women writers and literatures from Northeast India. His work is published or forthcoming in Lunch Ticket, The Albion Review, Glassworks Magazine, GASHER Journal, Rigorous Magazine, South 85 Journal, The Roadrunner Review and others. Follow him on Twitter: @abhijitsarmah_
ON ASKING MY MOTHER ABOUT WINTER 1990
On 27th November 1990, President’s rule was imposed in the state of Assam and Operations Rhino and Bajrang
were launched against separatist groups. Thousands of young men were arrested, hundreds were killed.
We hid the moon in the silent river
so they couldn’t chase the uiis that
lived in the incisions of the last crag,
laughs my mother, they toppled like nests
of baya weavers on the way of Bordoisila
rushing angrily to her mother’s feast.
but, the rest? I ask as sunlight drips down her twiggy legs
and strews its nerves gently on the mosaic porch.
Oh, in dugouts covered with banana-leaves
we girls numbered snails and trembling tendrils of light,
oak whispers and green gooseberries to dip in salt— and
sometimes when their tawny mastiffs came our way tearing
through thick scrims of fog tinctured with slivers of the moon
we ran for our brothers hiding in the forest.
then they saved you? Oh, they were never there.
They always went hunting for finches, floating clods of stars.
Uii: (meaning) witches in Mishing language; Bordoisila: A severe cyclonic storm that marks the incoming monsoon season in Assam, India