an apology

(for Gautam Vegda)

you know that an apology
is only for them and those that
have been heard. you have been
on the receiving end of shame
and hurt for generations and more
and you know that the attacks
wounding your turned back
and your courageous countenance
are but centuries old.
what is an apology
in the face of a history of violence?
what is a little more silence
for one who has been told
to hold his tongue
through the darkness of civilization?
those who speak of dignity
are ensconced in the soft luxury
of a birth that whispers to them
honour is theirs by default.
what can be lost for a warrior like you
who never had that glorious cup
to hold or drink from and have only
with oppressive silence,
with fiery words fought?
may you be the light
that shows emperor’s nudity
The light to the false covers of dignity
and honour that we wear
torn from your history’s skin.
may your words drown long held
beliefs that are nothing but sin.
only you know that all you lost
was always only theirs to have
may you take what never was given
even on a separate plate,
for you to have.

Author’s Note:  Gautam Vegda is a Dalit poet belonging to, and writing about, a historically marginalised and oppressed caste in India. Recently he was targeted and shamed publicly by his publishers over using a filter while announcing his new book cover.  

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.