Owedby Reena Kapoor
I have answers for the complacent ones, who lounge in their stupor
Bleating on: What can we do? we are too little, too weak, too far away…
What answers do I give to those who were battered themselves
Whose bones were hacked, lives torn up like secondhand trash
What do we tell those who cry: I was there.
It was me they felled; the rest simply walked away…
I think of you often and wonder what dreams you left unfinished
How much your mother cried, or couldn't—even as she bled
When your father stopped breathing, every breath hurt so much
Whither those you touched now drift, emptied by humanity's betrayal
Yet there were those who simply left you for dead, near dead
"What could have we done?" "We are but helpless..." Indeed!
"It is the system that's so rotten" they most boisterously proclaim
Then secure their homes to rebirth the same wretched filth
Maybe the sleeping wrath you woke will howl unto hell
Maybe the world will move on—unmoved
Maybe one day you'll come back, seek us out for an answer
Was it me or your dharma that was raped that day?
* * * * *
*dharma = duty/ righteousness in Hinduism
Author's note: Originally this poem was written for “Nirbhaya,” who was fatally raped and brutalized in India on December 16, 2012, but applies to any girl or woman who suffered a similar fate while we stood by. Molestation, rape and sexual assault of women in public spaces is often written off rather euphemistically as “eve teasing” in India; while things have marginally improved in terms of awareness, this type of violence continues to shake the country’s conscience all too often.
Growing up an “army brat” in India, Reena Kapoor feels lucky to have lived all over the country. Reena has been muddling with poetry for over a decade. Arrivals & Departures is her debut poetry collection. Her poems take the reader on journeys through a multitude of places and time periods. Reena can be found at her blog https://arrivalsanddepartures.substack.com/. As the 2020-21 playwright-in-residence for EnActe Arts, a Bay Area theatre company, four plays by Reena were produced in April 2021. Reena’s photography can be found on Instagram at @1stardusty.