14.12.2008, Iraq

Alright, Mr Bush!
Today, with great pride
I’m getting old shoes fixed.
Those Iraqi shoes,
Scorched by burning sands,
Sands, which in that land have been mixed with gunpowder. shoe
Those Vietnamese shoes,
Found buried in their own land,
On whose graves no identification could be recorded.
Those Palestinian shoes,
Which lost their way within their own home,
And were made captive by killers.
Those Afghan shoes,
Dipped in oil-wells and then set on fire,
Where even clouds did not burst into rain.

There are so many things we’ve to fix about you Mr Bush! 
Which is why, today, I am returning once more,
Thinking compared to writing a poem, to fix shoes,
Or to fix poetry with the civility of shoes, is more effective. 
Till today I wrote poems
With the civility of the hammer and sickle
But now I will write armed with the civility of shoes.

They say that that shoe has been destroyed.
How many shoes will you destroy Mr. Bush?
There are so many shoes –
Enough to hurl every single day 
At the history of the White House
From George Washington to Obama,
From the Patriot Act to the Nuke Deal,
From the World Bank to the WTO,
From Hiroshima to Abu Gharib,
At the history of all the institutions you created.  
The entire century is stacked with blood-stained shoes.

How many shoes remain to be retrieved from coffins?
No record of them exists with CNN or BBC
Nor even with the Voice of America.
But we have records of them, Mr. Bush.
We can estimate their numbers
From the surges of your share markets alone.
Close down CNN, BBC and Voice of America,
And confront the question if you can:
As many shoes as lie scattered in battle
Why do your share markets surge in the same proportion?
Tie up, if you can, the share market graphs like shoelaces,
And hurl them in the faces of all those sold-out economists
And say, ‘This cannot be the measure of our life’.
Tell them that
In our world,
It is only scattered shoes that can write
The saga of nights
That burn with the odour of gunpowder
That rage at rape,
That quake in stampedes.
Mr Bush, you forgot to destroy these as well.
You forgot that in our worlds
Relationships shape the identity of shoes,
Amma’s shoes
Babu’s shoes
Pitaji’s shoes
There are no jogging shoes, no night shoes, no party shoes; not in our world.

In the jungles of Bolivia
You got rid of our hero
You even chopped his hands off, Mr. Bush.
You were so scared, Bush, that you had to get his hands chopped off.
But like it always happens, this time too, you forgot to get rid of the shoes.
You forgot that one pair of these goes by the name of Fidel Castro.
You forgot that one pair went by the name of Ho Chi Minh.
You forgot that one pair was called Yasser Arafat.
You forgot that one pair is Muntedar al-Zaidi as well.
Within our hearts just such a shoe goes by the name of Bhagat Singh.
Come to Hindustan and take a look, do!
But before that, mark this proclamation
By us – the self-respecting Hindustani people
To those who tell you ‘I love you’,
To that ruler of our land who loves you – 
Next time it won’t be black flags we’ll show you. 

Here, take this shoe on behalf of those civilizations
At whose point of origin there sits a man
Boiling leather
While another sets out in a ship to discover something.
This shoe is on behalf of those civilizations
At whose mouth a cobbler sits
Hammering a nail into a shoe.

This shoe is on behalf of those crores of black races,
Towards that Order where a man – a cobbler – 
Is made an animal in his own land.

This shoe is on behalf of all those children ---
--- African, Iraqi, Palestinian, Afghan, Cuban, Vietnamese, South American…
Who, listening to the tales of Ali Baba and Sinbad,
have fallen into a long and hungry sleep.
Or else their limbs, like our breath, have been taken away by your warships.

This shoe is on behalf of all those, the best among martyrs, poets and revolutionaries
Who, like Spartacus,
In search of one more May Day
Stand boldly at the Red Square.

This shoe is directed towards your ancient way of war
Which should have been buried along with Hitler,
Like the bow and mace with ancient tribes.

Mr. Bush, if only I could return
To that morning of 1492
Then I would hurl this shoe at Columbus’ face
And say, “Columbus, forgive me
When history returns to repeat itself,
It’s quite ruthless,
Some truths – difficult to love, yet truths – 
Shall then be buried,
All along the path of your journey, shall shoes be spread.

Look at them,
Recognize them
Such savagery, Columbus!
Even their toes are scuffed like the soles.

Look Columbus, how innocent are some of these shoes,
So soft their threads, look at them closely -
Made from milk from the breast,
What if they had been spared guns and blood!

Had you forgotten, O Columbus!
On this island, to draw the fine line between blood and playthings,
Can you now feel
These writhing, suffering shoes?

Some of these shoes belong to those mothers
Whose motherhood has burnt like coal into embers.

Some of these shoes belong to beloved women
Who wanted to sit on hills
And sing songs of the spring.

Some of these shoes belong to widows
Who after their husbands were martyred
Dreamt of freedom for their land.
Some of these shoes belong to fathers
Who, carrying children on their shoulders,
Hoped to see the colours of butterflies.
Some of these shoes belong to peasants
Who, waiting for their crops to ripen,
Sat on the banks of their fields, watching through the night.

Some of these shoes belong to workers
Who, before you shot them,
You trapped in the machines.

Mr. Bush, we cannot return now.
But we will return one day, not just to that morning of 1492
But to destroy the historicity of all those dates
To bury all those histories
Which in the name of ‘democracy’ have become a mound of corpses.
We’ll come one day to bury
This war-culture of yours, on your own land,
For sure, Mr. Bush!
While returning, just once,
Have a close look at this world,

Look closely – there beneath the Statue of Liberty
In the shadows, is Spartacus readying for war
Changing your very identity.
And in their own countries, those shoes that were buried,
Will arise to write their names on their graves.

Look Bush, look closely,
How pathetic your Senate looks this time.
All you ‘civilized’ people of the world, look closely,
Our ‘barbarian’ ways are so much more creative and fertile.
Mothers, cradling silky shoes in their arms, hum lullabies,
Lovers sing of spring on the mountains,
And relationships bask in the colours of butterflies. 
Mr Bush! Those shoes must be returning to their own homes,
Who because of your murderous desires
Became strangers in their own lands.
Those shoes must be emerging from their coffins,
They are emerging now, those shoes
Because in the world and within you
They seek to arouse the civility of Life.
Mr Bush! They must all be returning
But not just to the morning of 1492
Because when history repeats itself…

- Ravi Prakash