Our Eyes See the Blood on the Red of Your Flag

Christi Belcourt, Canada, 2021

I’ve slowed down on my blog due to health and other very important circumstances. But I have not stopped… I have been, like so many of us in Canada, overwhelmed by the physical forensic evidence of a genocide so recent that it is actually on-going.

Kamloops Residential School, Cowessess First Nation Marieval Residential School, and other Residential schools have provided evidence of over 1300 deaths in the last two weeks. That is in addition to the approximately 4000 deaths recognized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission had recommended the forensic examination of all residential schools for indigenous peoples, but that was denied by the federal government of Canada on the basis that a $1.5 million price tag at the time was “too high”.

This callous indifference characterizes the Canadian State’s approach to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples when it is not engaged in the antics of the Indian Act or helping its corporate partners in resource extraction.

So I took the Haiku challenge set by Ronovanwrites (https://ronovanwrites.com/2021/06/07/ronovan-writes-weekly-haiku-poetry-prompt-challenge-361-home-and-weep),and decided to think about the word prompts. I approached them in terms of the confirmation of genocide and ethnic cleansing that recent revelations about child abuse and murder at Residential schools, have proven.

Christi Belcourt, Our Lives are in the Land

I fear there may be thousands more children found before this is over. And as an ally of colour or person in solidarity with indigenous nations in this settler country, I feel we need to use all our means of protest to say that this Canada we have built is rotten, from and to, the core. Supporting both treaty and unceded nations, we have to add our voices to the Landback movement. Taking our cues from the demands of Indigenous people, water, and earth protectors from various parts of the country shows us how interconnected abuse and genocide of people is to dispossession from their lands

I am sharing below the art and haiku I have created in homage to these living struggles on our current lands. Justice must not only be seen to be done, it must be done. And words like “reconciliation” are hysterically cynical in my humble opinion. Where are the words, “accountability”, “due process”, “law enforcement”, “justice”? Some of the perpetrators of abuse and worse, are still alive– protected by the Catholic Church and Canadian state.

Why are aboriginal peoples incarcerated and survivors of a social apartheid at inhuman rates, while those who squeeze their life blood out of them, get to run free? All of us who tread this soil, who weep at the dehumanization of children and entire peoples, who struggle for equality, respect and liberation in our own lives, must realize that all of that is meaningless without a fundamental shift in what it means to live on Indigenous land.

Weep/Home

Home, weeps this land, fenced
by greed disguised as civil-
ization. Landback.

Home, they cry, you have
taken the ground beneath.
Give us back our souls.

Thousands of children
home. Weeping parents shattered.
Kkkanada fed blood.

Home, they wept, take us
back. Hug these small bodies back to
families, lands, names.

They Tried to Bury Us, They Did Not Know We Were Seeds, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/residential-school-records-missionary-of-oblates-of-mary-immaculate-1.6078260?fbclid=IwAR0IUmZpdIEAZtxU1IUlpBaCfjMzN3LwMkCq4dCdt6-4lAAkIY0j4w6ggVI

https://si-rshdc-2020.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2021/06/MassGravesFramework_2021.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2BfRPGR0KPuB9zvnMM8UsID-SSom8G49onLy6F4Enhi44mtcg14gS9Bcw

Haiku of Mourning

This week, I joined RonovanWrites’ Haiku challenge, centering the words “time” and “slip”at https://ronovanwrites.com/2021/02/22/ronovan-writes-weekly-haiku-poetry-prompt-challenge-346-slip-and-time/.

Some of you may know I lost my father last summer to Covid. I was trapped by coronavirus policies and my own chronic health issues and unable to be with him. I miss him lots, especially when reading literature from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America that he introduced me to, so long ago. Although I didn’t know which poems would spring forth this time, I guess my sadness seeped through. Like one of my father’s favourite writers, Raymond Chandler, I sometimes dwell in “the long goodbye.”

For my father

Time slips off my wrist.

Your watch, turning back the hands.

To have you here now.

Sundown, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

Slipping through time, space

I land at your bedside,

hold the hand that slipped from mine.

My hand slips from the phone

I don’t call your number

now memory, your voice.

My Father: Manabendra Bandyopadhyay, Bangla Academy Exhibition, Kolkata 2021, photo by Suchetana Chattopadhyay

Polar Vortex Haiku!

I’ve joined the Haiku Challenge from RonovanWrites again this week! The words for this week’s challenge were “teeth” and “bite”. Wintery words for me! Went for a drive and saw pristine winter landscapes in the middle of a cold snap.Like so many, I was fascinated by the light. But the bone chilling cold bites hard!

Winter Fields, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

  1. winter bites me hard 

bones and joints bare teeth even

biting back in pain

2. Winter’s teeth bite the

early dark. Tree branches like 

exposed skeletons…

3. Beautiful light, sun smiles

through biting blue. We smile too, 

teeth flash— trees wave arms!

Why Now? Haiku

Another contribution from me to Ronovan Writes’ weekly haiku challenge. This week’s words were “mad” and “sane”. The haiku’s form provides structure. Our minds provide the creativity! The link is here: https://ronovanwrites.com/2020/12/14/ronovan-writes-weekly-haiku-poetry-prompt-challenge-336-mad-and-sane/. As a person with fibromyalgia and chronic conditions, I am always heartened to see the work of others like him who push through their circumstances to find humour and creativity. Girl, it’s not easy, as the women always say on the streets of Havana!

I have had mad thoughts
before the loss of hopeful
drove me sane. Why now?

Treibor Mawlong, A Routine, 2020

Covid’s mad scatter
burrows through hearts and people.
Shadow of sane selves.

Treibor Mawlong, Circles, 2020

Sane dreaming gets me
through. The mad call it lucid.
Art, words, tune, rhythm.

Bird of Peace and Power, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Haiku: Words and Worlds!

It’s my third attempt with https://ronovanwrites.com/2020/12/07/ronovan-writes-weekly-haiku-poetry-prompt-challenge-335-curl-and-paw/. The challenge is real, hahaha. Word prompts remind me of slam poetry, and the adrenalin of having to “come up with something”. And the more I delve into the haiku form, the more I see its possibilities. It’s spare and contained syllables contain worlds! This week’s words are “curl” and “paw”.

Portrait, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

seems like a paw, soft
curling nails that tear through flesh
but the words echo.

young shoots of grass green
like cats’ eyes. striped tiger prowling
her spring paws uncurl.

Tongue, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Curled and lonely, we
are not cats that lie heaped. paws,
whiskers akimbo.

Nightfall, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

The Wind Speaks Winter: Haiku

Once again, I joined in https://ronovanwrites.com , Ronovanwrites’ Haiku challenge based on the two words, “grace” and “slip”. I enjoy the exercise for my rusty brain. And for me, so much more enjoyable than writing essays! The Haiku form has been around for centuries. It’s very sparseness makes it alluring. It’s like the very distilled form of story telling. 90 proof! Salud!

Wind Speaks Winter

From grace we slipped to
precarity, alert, as
foxes who scent fear

Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Slip-sliding down life’s
branches, a squirrel’s grace is
visible through glass

Squirrel, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Love is a grace we
slip from like loosening of
hands. Wind speaks winter.

Behind the Wind, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Life, View, Haiku

I recently found a blog on haiku which also offers up writing challenges, by assigning words to construct a piece around. I hadn’t engaged in that sort of thing since high school. But I decided to try my hand at it. I learned that a) it’s harder than it seems and b) that it is fun to do once in a while. I hope you enjoy them!

  1. A view from here shows
    life, before this pandemic,
    was only illusion.

2. Life gives us views we
never chose.The scene from six
feet apart. Heart break.

Six Feet Apart, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

3. Viewed from on high this
world of ours, small and tender,
turns without reason.

The weight of this world, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Late Night Haiku

Many people living with chronic illness, worry, and pain, experience insomnia. In fact, even children can experience it. It is a very insidious problem, and with the current state of affairs, I suspect that more people are staying awake than before. Paradoxically, even those with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia, may be unable to sleep, although they feel exhausted. Sometimes, after exertion, whether cleaning or shopping or laundry or even walks for pleasure, pain and fatigue hit like a ton of bricks. But at night, sleep can be elusive. Since I was a reader long before the internet, I often enjoyed reading at night. I still do. There is something magical about immersions in other worlds, while the world outside of oneself is sleeping and relaxed.

Reading, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

In Mexico and Cuba, the nights would be punctuated by rogue roosters, all of who seemed to suffer from insomnia, and never waited for dawn to start their proclamations! In fact, I began to wonder if the rooster- crowing- at- dawn trope was actually a myth. Or was it that ages ago, cities and countrysides were not as lit up throughout the nights, encouraging roosters to sleep?

Rooster, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2018
Insomnia, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Reading however is a great escape, if one can concentrate enough to enjoy it! I continue reading at night especially when I can’t sleep. With the closure of bookstores and my aversion to online shopping, the high-price of new novels, I have found online resources at the public library to be a great resource. I first realized that online reading was helpful in travelling, as so much weight was taken up by my books. But with the pandemic, I have resorted to online mysteries, biographies and children’s literature. Sadly, the last category is the weakest and a lot of stuff online for kids is really repetitive and badly written. Illustrated books for younger kids show a total reliance on cartoon culture and a lack of visual imagination.

The other night, while waiting for sleep, I went back to the haiku, a favourite form of poetry. After reading a few contemporary ones, I decided to try my hand at some after a long time. Here, they are.

Insomnia

  1. Late at night, breath’s sound

replaces the city’s corrosive hum

cat turning, finds core.

Cat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

2. Insomnia is

a star, gleaming digital

more know her name than Capella’s.

3. Middlenight, riddle 

sleep. the sky holds her secrets

behind a veiled cloud.

 4. Insomnia’s leaves

are bookmarks, half-faded slumber

poems echo dream- like.

5. Insomnia, silent 

as that cat that crept in on

fog’s feet or vice versa.

6. Fog footed, insomnia’s 

friend to cat, bat, and the night

blooming jasmine.

The Reading Hour, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

More Haiku!

Loving the haiku today! What a fantastic form. I thought I would share the classics. Here is my favourite, the tender and whimsical Kobayashi Issa:

O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

Autumn Snail, Kaushalya Bannerji , 2017

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) is another great haiku master:

I want to sleep
Swat the flies
Softly, please.

After killing
a spider, how lonely I feel
in the cold of night!

Spider 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Basho, recognized for centuries as the great haiku exponent, says,

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

Autumn moonlight-
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus –
A lovely sunset.

A River Runs Through It, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2017

and Kobayashi Issa again,

Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.

Prickly Pear, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2018

And no hypocrisy from these old masters either. I wonder what they would think of the ways in which religions have been commodified and weaponized and devoid of compassion in all corners of the globe. Issa says,

All the time I pray to Buddha 
I keep on 
    killing mosquitoes.

Buddha, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Steve McCurry