Youth & democracy: 5 poems


The prose of Indian poet Haripriya Soibam describes youth's struggle to preserve and promote democracy. Read her five poems for "Young voices on the rise - Youth and democracy in the Asia-Pacific region".

I. Poetry

The tiny voices of those
who had even once stared
out of the window of a classroom,
Looking for the poetry
of a whole flower - on the dissection table,
lies the operated flower in parts - stigma, stamen, sepal.
You are told,
this is the move
from gaze to knowing
But you know
it is beyond the walls
you learn to hold
the flower whole
and inhale the origin
of all poetry.

II. Untitled

promises and promises
give it a miss
it is unsure
you promised me the moon
and dotted on my nails
the black stain of your promises
I live with the regret
yet another five years
Optimist that I am
you will find me yet again
lining up in the queue
amongst stones and dust
of the rumbling school
roofless from your promises
waiting for the stain
secretly folding your promises
sliding it down
the box of dreams of democracy
locked securely for another five years
is lies and lies and lies
Yet I believed
like a love struck luckless lover
I wish I had chosen
another polish for my nails

Soibam Haripriya Porträt Schwarz Weiß

Haripriya Soibam is an independent researcher. She has been a FWO Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University, Belgium. She was also a Fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS), Shimla. Soibam Haripriya has taught at the Centre for Sociology and Social Anthropology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Guwahati campus and Gender Studies Programme, Ambedkar University. Her research interests include violence studies, gender studies and anthropology of fiction/poetry. Her (edited) forthcoming book Homeward (2021) is published by Zubaan, New Delhi. She is also a poet and her poems have appeared in anthologies such as A Map Called Home (2018), Centrepiece (2017), 40 Under 40: An Anthology of Post-Globalization Poetry (2016). Some of her poems have been included in ‘Muse India’ (May-June 2019) issue, ‘Poetry at Sangam’ (July 2019) issue and the bi-monthly journal of Sahitya Akademi— ‘Indian Literature’.

III. In Clear Light

One foot already on the other side
part of you, distant future-looking
you will soon be exiled from comfort
always be in clear light
of that which you see in the mirror.
if the lights dim outside
incubate the rage curled in your belly.
do you remember your kindergarten crayon river
emerging from between hills flowing outside of the frame?
now that you are older than that
the clamour of the world awaits you
perhaps outside of the frame
of what we taught you
and you will teach us your fury.

IV. Pandemic City

Understand, my rage is basic, uncomplicated
against the empty clanging of utensils,
hollow echoes of applause.
For which dislocated human
have walked home without doubt?
Of all the bricks that
passed those callused hands
shaping concrete and mortar
into ivory tower edifice,  
cities are, but, grids of desolation

V. Dream/ Delusion

Everything unravels including the sky.
Dusk is caught as a lump in my throat
Each day, how easily unmade. How easily a page can be blank.
Wordless, the poet collect shards of broken dreams of words
as if a souvenir of youth.
And youth? What age it was!
How we thought a poem will bring down the nation at our feet!
Youth, that age we held finite alphabets
dreamt of coaxing infinite poetry.
Break or get broken in this encounter,
But so lopsided it was, it is
Words against bombs, stones against bullets.
Youth, so easily a time between living and dying
and words could be a conversation been lovers
or the last to litter memory with.

These poems are part of our dossier "Young voices on the rise – Youth and democracy in the Asia-Pacific region". They first appeared here: