Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and educated in Germany and the United States, Ronny Noor is now an English professor at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, U.S.A. His poems, stories, and essays have appeared in The Toronto Review, Palo Alto Review, South Asian Review, Short Story, Taj Mahal Review, FreeXpresSion, The Weekend Independent, The Ghazal Page, The Daily Star, Kokako, and Contemporary Literary Review India. He is also the author of Snake Dance in Berlin (a novel), Slice of Heaven and Other Essays (a collection), and Where Heaven Spreads Wide & Other Stories (a collection).
(In memory of Avijit Roy)
From time immemorial
scrambling over hills and rushing
down valleys marauders with
swords and arrows chopped heads
and burned villages to lay undue
claims on people and possessions.
They invented gods to their
own liking to strengthen their
grip and cement their hold,
branding Socrates an atheist,
forcing poison down his throat
for keeping to his own course.
That was more civilised when we
think of the knives raining down
on Avijit in broad daylight on our
own street, a rag doll folding
in the dust. Such ghastly villainy
in God’s holy name for seeking
knowledge on his own will not
rein in the human brain just as
the burning of Giordano Bruno
upside down at the stake for his
cosmological beliefs did not stop
Neil from touring the moon, for
those who follow others with
blind obedience find nothing,
as a good life, to a noble mind,
is steered by virtuous deeds
inspired by love for our mates.
They arrived in jeeps one July afternoon
As we were kicking a football
In the schoolyard, half a dozen army
Vehicles silencing us on the spot.
We held our breath till they said
They would protect us from “bandits,”
Beginning to set up a camp in the school,
Closed since the start of the war.
Parents told us kids not to play
Near the troops; so we watched
Curiously from our courtyards as they
Strode in pairs in their creased khakis
Up and down the rugged village roads,
Guns slung from their sturdy shoulders,
Till one night when a teenage girl vanished,
Throwing the village farmers into panic.
They searched high and low for a day
Before her bruised body floated up,
Naked, in the pond. Her feet had slipped,
We were told amidst sobs and tears,
And she didn’t know how to swim.
But the adults were worried sick
About their wives and daughters, and
Led us out of the village, one by one.
Gray-haired after three decades
of wandering in Europe
and the far-flung Americas,
I have returned to my lane.
The old streets seem narrower
between new skyscrapers,
chocked with cars and rickshaws
loaded with strange characters.
A skeletal man nods his shaved head,
his hand frozen in a sling;
when I fail to greet him,
he reminds me of our cricket team.
Now stricken with cancer he flies to India
every two months for chemo, he rues –
a heavy sigh amidst azaans’ chants –
muezzins abound but not a doctor.
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