Velvet Bidding: Poems by Agnes Aineah


IMAGE: Satish Krishnamurthy via Flickr


On the first morning I swept a glance at a shoe shine
Heaving his weight on a stool under his workplace
His powerful hands worked on a shoe
That seemed so powerless in his huge palm
The owner, eager to have the job perfect and fast
And obviously armed with the day’s dailies on his lips
Cheered the shoe shine with a string of narrative
But the listener was transfixed elsewhere with a passionate poise
And my ears must have missed the calculated velvet voice
As my shoe shine wished me a good day ahead

I passed by the following morning again by choice
This time I did not miss my shoe shine’s bidding
He wished me well, which I thought from a stranger was a little noise
And I could not hide my outward projected dismay
In greeting me, I thought, does this man get a pay!
Either I was irritated, or simply had bad break of the day
So with a slight wave of a coerced hand, I rushed on my own way

The third morning so long in coming, the house was so hot
I stepped in the day and with expectant steps, I neared my spot
This time, from the blues, so eager for my shoe shine’s shot
The now familiar voice deeper, but the words not for me
He was so engaged I thought he had resolved to let me be
Sad clouds hang on me all day long, and I longed for my dear first morning
The following day engaged us both, as though heavens did bless my longing
As my ears so keen caught my shoe shine wish me a good day ahead



What happens to lives destroyed, those exterminated in vanity?
Lives veiled from a perfect day with the purest dawn
Those formed at lucidity and crushed with matching sanity
Lives never to smell the new fragrance of a budding flower

What happens to their share of the sun’s timid eyes?
Like a lonely herb crawling in the belly of a mammoth tree
Such lives never raise a finger in bidding fair night ahead
To dear sun’s smiling face as she gropes for her way away.

I wonder what becomes of brains of destroyed lives
When with their termination, their conceptions all nosedive
And when they are plucked from their walls and smashed between thighs
I wonder who realizes visions of such lives.

Do those lives add to the weight of the sky’s humid air?
Or do they attend when dark clouds converge for a disastrous downpour
Do they slither into real forms within dreary vaults and creepiest of walls?
Or is theirs the eerie cry that follows sheep, slow and sleepy on their way back home?



All through the year, at peace we lay
And through the seasons, the streets we strayed
When we bathed in the sun and laughed in the rains
Was when calm was here and no enemy reigned.

We had no gates, for we had no wall
No school for guards and no shop for keys
Our land was open, and glad to have all
We had no fear, when calm was here.

Calm swept the fields with the gentlest breath
And all nature marveled at the moment, no doubt the best
We knew no uncertainty, with all terror at rest
And nothing mattered then, not even death.

Why, we thought, should we fear school and college?
But for lack of fees and the dread of the teacher’s canes?
Far from our minds was the question of guns and hostage
And we freely treaded churches and shrines to let go of the heart’s pains.

Then Oh! The seasons now settle in, ones dreaded the most
Distrust, intolerance, attacks come to the unwilling hosts
The hostile hurricanes sweep all our quiet, lost
Each instance they are through, we are left a confused lot.

Who ever knew we would say no to a neighbor?
When nothing taught us to suspect a friend?
A school for a guard and a shop for a key is our present labor
For we know no friend and who is a terrible fiend


ALL POEMS © Agnes Aineah
IMAGE:  Satish Krishnamurthy via Flickr

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