A Different History by Sujata Bhatt

 

Great Pan is not dead;

he simply emigrated

           to India.

Here the gods roam freely,

disguised as snakes or monkeys;

every tree is sacred

and it is a sin

to be rude to a book.

It is a sin to shove a book aside

                      with your foot,

a sin to slam books down

            hard on the table

a sin to toss one carelessly

           across a room.

You must learn how to turn the pages gently

without disturbing Sarasvati,

without offending the tree

from whose wood the paper was made.

           Which language

            has not been the oppressor’s tongue?

           Which language

truly meant to murder someone?

And how does it happen

that after the torture,

after the soul has been cropped

with a long scythe swooping out

of the conqueror’s face-

the unborn grandchildren

grow to love that strange language.

 

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