Poem for Joseph
“It is never too late to come home.”
But I need a homeland
where I can recognize myself,
just a map or even a tree or a stone,
to mark a spot I could return to
like a pissing animal
even when there’s nothing to return for.
Although it’s true
that in my native land,
children have crawled out of burrows
they had gouged under hard beds,
long after the grownups had fled and
roofs came apart
like charred heads.
You said, you didn’t regret
how ethnic cleansers had palmed
your newly-built home off on a people
well on their trail back to pure blood,
you didn’t mind leaving behind
objects of desire
you had collected over twenty-five years,
or, how you came to live in a rented room
with your wife and your children
in dog-eat-dog Imphal,
among the callous tribe
I call my own.
Only the photographs you mourned,
the beloved sepia of one family tree,
since you’re the reason why your fathers lived;
but, who’ll believe now
that you lived at all?