war on art

there was the thrall of music
long before the call to arms
I was a captive of their beauty
long before you summoned me to war
what new smallness of man is this,
that would demand that we measure
the largesse of art
by the short yardstick of hate
or alter its truth
for ‘hurt sentiments’ sake?
and still,
since we must now declare
our allegiance through hate and harm,
and filter the sound of voice
through the nationality of the man,
let me say right away
that if allegiances have to be
so exactly declared
I will state with my last breath
that my citizenship
is not of birth,
nor lines scratched
on the soft body of earth,
I belong to spaces drawn
with no weapon other
than charcoal in my hands
I belong first
and possibly last,
to the borderless nation of art
for it, for words, poetry, colours
a way of saying as no other,
I could lay my life down
the thing that will keep us human,
the thing that always seeps through
the tightest of borders
the thing that travels faster
than your bullet into a heart
the thing called art
for it, with the armour of love,
with the grenade of songs
her citizens could go to war
for we know,
as we dip the point
of our brushes in oil
and string our broken guitars
that the silent din of your drone wars
your click bombs and your bans
can never drown the eternal music
of the human he/art

Dr Sonali Pattnaik is an award winning feminist poet, professor of English Literature and visual artist. She is the author when the flowers begin to speak (Writers Workshop, 2021). Her poetry and art have been most recently anthologised in  print in Of Brave Hearts and Dry Tongues (2022) and The Kali Project (2021) among others and have been published widely. including in Setu Magazine, Parcham, Muse India, The Bombay Review, Fem Asia, The Yugen Quest Review.  Read other articles by Sonali, or visit Sonali's website.