A litany, inspired by Audre Lorde’s “Litany for Survival”
by Laila Malik
field guide to unruly survivals
Your lover smiles from the side of a mug filled with earth.
Your lover smiles from a laptop screen, asks how will we rebuild the frameworks, sweet hellogoodbye portent from the past.
In these times, everyone is looking for answers in Urdu poetry, but the rules of rekhti are an urgent mischief, jiss ki kabhi ijazat thi.
Rule one is dirt.
The dirt yaani the ground, yaani the body, yaani neither subject nor object, the indeterminate here-there, isn’t it?
I am not a poet, sings the sukhansaaz, I am dirt. Feel free to call me zalil; there is lifeblood in this ancient mischief. A lifeblood once permitted.
Rule next is show me your kitchen.
This intimate innard, with its mismatched bottles and jars of spice and condiment, gas burner and electrical outlet, Ponni in her housewear, shall i read you one?
Your bedroom, dual laptops on rumpled sheets, dual chappals on a cement floor, back curved in the loving act of transcription, how gently we take breaths issued from parted lips and shape them with dancing fingertips into scripture on a waiting scrim, these also are particles in the new framework.
Another rule is your lover’s bare feet
Drifting irreverently into the camera frame, this insistent presence, paired with her voice, its own kind of superposition.
Your lover, who smiles from the side of an earth
And we talk about who lives in the negative space, between and behind the frames, in the kerning of the posters on the wall, in the way you pour the coffee, how our bodies and spirits shrink and expand when we wrestle back the words, joust with the deliberate, loving irreverence of the already dead and the always alive, wrest back the ijaazat, itself a tenuous thing, spit into the precious artifice. Listen, the killing continues across our maps, but we are counting ourselves another way, committing these gorgeous, unrelentingly zalil stories and selves to collective memory, whisper-counting just beyond the sightline, just behind the soundline. We are counting fervently, I promise, we are counting with cameras and keyboards and with our bodies across all the time lines and circles and spirals. We are teaching ourselves new ways to count, using our left hands, granting ourselves second, third, fourth chances when we fumble, we are seizing every chance knowing each is a seed, each is a survival.
Rule last is we shall see.
Every rule is a daring admixture. An act of courage, incisors latched eternally to hope. This one is a resurrection of the urgent mischief, dubaara zindabad. This is the one where we take words born in one dirt and diffract them into words in another dirt. Feel free, don’t particles and waves overlap, inhabit multiple places at the same time? Hum dekhenge. We shall see. We are seeing.
We are seen.
The framework is a quantum poetry of dirt.
Sweet hellogoodbye welcome from the future.