(On the margins)
Yesterday, I did it…
Paid the last rupee.
Getting it was harder than life
(And I could tell you
A thing or two about hard lives.)
From an acquaintance thrice removed
Not apt to let affection affect business.
The money was got at twenty paise to a rupee
Not yearly, no, we live and work for the day.
The interest pulls at me from every side
Drawing flesh for money by the pound
But when the sun came out to break my spirit
Money was only paper that bought
This hard-fought square, my fortress in the city.
But that was yesterday, frozen
Forgotten in shadows of today’s dawn.
In debris of big decisions that claimed
My small walled hole, not hand to outstretched hand
Kept this billion square city from growth.
So when the clouds gathered to beat fury on me
My fort was only rubble by the roadside,
With cheap tarp and plastic roof over broken dreams.
This was my city once,
Small and content, ends
marked, named and set in stone.
Its heart known like mine own.
Now it grows to where I cannot see
And it seems there is no space for me.
Years ago, father fought
To buy his place in this world
Could he know the world would fight back?
Cut away its middle class slack?
Forsake men that were here first
To sate ambitious global thirst.
Could I have known that rootless progress
Would pave its highways over the
rubble of my brick and mortar home?
Shift from straight and narrow for commerce alone?
And steal from me my rightful fight
With help from elected, ruling might
And cast me obstructer, villain to progress’ plight
This city is not my home
It is not my lover, not my mother
No lover could hurt me as she has
Forget me except when I must give a hand
Give sweat and tears and my youth
So she can be younger, have a new face
And shine like a new bride.
And when I am done,
Throw me away because
She cannot bear this blot on her fair face
This ugly creature, all hands, no brains.
I came here with the hope of new love,
Because she welcomed me,
Promised sweet joy after the pain
And now I cannot leave
Because I have nowhere else to go
Staying, praying that one day she will remember again
The hope she gave to the little people
Instead of the riches she gave the big and powerful.