“Breaking the news about the death of their son” by Jamil Urfi

It was early morning

but still, the old man and his aged wife

Had not been told yet,

That their son had died, in a faraway land, amidst aliens.

 

In stones no words were written grey

The morning sun peeped through the curtains

And set streaks of light,

as the cleaning woman stirred  the dust with her broom. And

the two, looking like two sacrificial goats, still roamed about the house

as if nothing had happened. They could never guess what fate awaited them.

Their world had shrunk, like a dried walnut

 

Though nothing was amiss

Yet, in a remote, far away place,

Something had happened, barely ten hours ago,  that would affect them:

……erase memories of a childhood they had seen,

as it blossomed into youth and thence into

adulthood and cynicism.

A story book that had finished

and had to be shut up

And kept away!

 

 

And then, someone said, they must be told.

What would happen if they came to know

Wasn’t that why we had come ? To tell them

that their son had died mysteriously

The body had lain unattended for a day till

the neighbor noticed that no one came out or went in through

the door. Then someone called the police and found him

Discolored and dead,  two days old.

 

It is a sin to hide the news of death

And so all the details had to be given.

Death, like life, is after all an act of God.

All that one is supposed to do in such circumstances

is to recite  verses and hymns embedded in the holy scriptures. Life has to carry on

With its endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

 

 

As I lay in my bed,

On that cold November morning

I wondered when the news would be broken.

Suddenly

The stillness of the morning air was pierced

By howls and cries.

I knew what had happened and jumped out of the bed.

 

The old woman hung her head, dejectedly. As she stared into vacant space she just mumbled,  ‘what shall we do now ? what shall we do ?’

Her voice had  a ring of the collective:

That she was not alone

and if we all acted together, in unison

the situation could somehow be salvaged.

Poet’s Bio: Jamil Urfi studied at Aligarh Muslim University, University of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and in England. During his student days, as a campus correspondent for Youth Times—a youth magazine published by the Times of India group, he reported on social and political events from Aligarh university. Some of his poems were published in Skylark—a poetry journal for Indian English poets. He lives and works in Delhi.

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