A Bombing in Assam

You are walking along the street one day,
chewing cinnamon gum,
and the world is full of cinnamon
when there’s a fireball–
and a blast of gushing air and noise
like the Earth is cracking
and time has exploded. …

Then … silence. …

You think you’re okay, but you look down and your forearm
lies in the street like a dead snake and you collapse.

You don’t think:

“It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blasts that went off within minutes of each other, but the region is torn by dozens of militant separatist groups that have long fought the government and one another.”

This will come within minutes from those who were far away–
cool and calm analysis, almost reassuring in its syntactic coherence.

You are suddenly cold from the loss of blood
and you wonder if you will die and you cry out
in someone else’s voice underwater.
But none of the rushing men notice.

You are twenty two and you have/had a good job–
you were earnestly trying to help.
But now you think there was no point to your life,
and you remember your mother and father
whose voices are in the sirens.

You are embarrassed to have
emptied your bowels,
and your white shirt is red and muddy,
your tie is choking you
and the men and women are running wildly but slowly.

You wonder if the gleaming metal in the street
is part of the motorcycle that sheared off your arm.

Somebody squats down, peers at your face, then rushes on.

There are many people screaming now
but you can’t know if one of them is you
because nothing sounds like it used to.

You watch the sun come down into the road
and then there is only
soughing, impregnable blackness
sucking air from your lungs.

Gary Corseri's work has appeared at Dissident Voice, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, the New York Times, Village Voice and hundreds of other venues. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. His books include novels and poetry collections. He can be reached at: gary_corseri@comcast.net. Read other articles by Gary.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. tuned in said on October 31st, 2008 at 7:43am #

    powerful imagery in your poetry.

  2. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 31st, 2008 at 9:38am #

    india is yet another of the evil empires. it still has caste system. so, its governance sucks.
    as for assam, don’t know much ab it but do favor selfrule for nearly all ethnoses who seek it. thnx

  3. Adam Engel said on October 31st, 2008 at 10:38am #

    This piece nearly made me crap my pants.

    Really, really great stuff. It kinda bummed me out though to look at the comments and see a guy talk pure politics about the situation in India yadda yadda yadda. I know it’s on a so-called ‘political site’ but the purpose of art is to transcend the ‘daily news’ or rather, raise it to the level of the Human, all Too Human…

    In other words, is there a difference between what Corseri describes in the poem, and Beirut? or Gaza? or Ireland in 1916? or South Africa in 1985? or the U.S. in 1860? or Warsaw in 1943? or Beijing in 1989? or Rome, circa 200 A.D, etc. etc. etc.?

    Of course, this poem will probably generate all sorts of “opinions” among the millions floating around “the information super highway that’s gonna bring us all together” these days, including this one. But I prefer to think of opinions not “like assholes, but like original minds; not everybody has one.”

    Fortunately, the poet, Gary Corseri, has a unique gift and an original mind.

  4. mary said on October 31st, 2008 at 11:47am #

    Unbelievably there was absolutely no mention of these bombings on our TV news channels so thank you Gary for drawing attention to this tragedy in such a moving way. I think of the ‘Noughties’ represented by a continuously moving belt spewing out blood, guts and body parts in parts of the world where the heavy boots of the armies of the British Empire and of the Amerikan Empire have trodden and where the ‘art of war’ has been practised and taught.

    One would think that this particular war, in a place which we ceased to occupy and rule just over 61 years ago, should be reported in the British mainstream media. Instead we have yards of stuff about the US Presidential elections, the effects of conflict in the Congo and a mediastorm about two foul mouthed media personalities.

    I did find a short report in the Times, which talks of a liberation movement called ULFA who obviously object to continuing exploitation. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5045940.ece
    An extract here: ‘ULFA has been fighting for an independent Assam since 1979, accusing the federal Government of plundering the region’s tea, timber and oil resources while neglecting basic infrastructure and services.
    Now wedged between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Burma, Assam was an independent kingdom for more than six centuries until its conquest by the British in 1826.
    When India won independence it was one of the country’s three wealthiest regions. Today it is one of the three poorest states, even though it produces more than half of India’s tea and 17 per cent of its oil.
    ULFA began peace talks with the Government in 2006 but they fell apart after six weeks and both sides resumed a conflict in which more than 10,000 people have now been killed.’

    Thank you again. So sad and such a waste of life.

  5. Ramsefall said on October 31st, 2008 at 3:47pm #

    Very effective second-person narration — this piece advertently depicts the dark nature of catastrophe, chaos, confusion and death; evoking instant reflection on the insanity of our species. I’m forced to wonder again when the time will come for humankind to evolve into intelligent and compassionate beings who honor their innate knowledge of right from wrong.

    While Gary’s anecdote depicts a realistic scenario anywhere in civilization, it’s a bold reminder that our species has yet to become civilized.

    Bombings, invasions, torture, murder, rape, starvation, poverty, oppression, environmental belligerence; when are we going to put an end to this destructive, unproductive and stupid behavior?

    Thanks Gary.

    Best to you.

  6. Edward Campbell. said on November 1st, 2008 at 2:04am #

    Gary Corseri; does say it all again,– and who listens?

    Could (they) describe a babe’s, an infant’s, a child’s, an adolescent’s, agonized thoughts and feelings?

  7. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 1st, 2008 at 8:34am #

    well, ramsefall,
    enlightenment, education offers us one chance to be less brutal.
    however, we r part of an infinitely-valued nature; thus also infinitely valued.
    recognizing this fact may lead us to the notion that we can increase our good deeds and decrease our bad deeds.
    we can do it, if we obtain unity. can we? how?
    if we can’t, then at least humans r destined for dust bin. thnx

  8. Ramsefall said on November 1st, 2008 at 9:41am #

    Yes, bozhidar, education certainly offers a chance to collectively overcome the hideous acts of man. Through education one hopefully becomes aware, and by that we are lead to enlightenment at least in the sense of appreciating human value and our environment on which we ultimately depend for our survival and prosperity.

    Increasing our good deeds, one person at a time, with all those we encounter along life’s daily encounters, is a start. I believe that we can from an optimistic stand, and that we must from a realistic one.

    If we can’t, as you say, we are undoubtedly destined for the dust bin and beyond. What a tragedy that would be.

    Best to you.

  9. Manisha Banerjee said on November 3rd, 2008 at 9:50am #

    I found the poem very well written and expressive. You have touched the right string.