Once I was a Man; A Refugee’s Tale

A poem by Advait Joshi

Beloved, brood of my blood; my arms were your shields,
I lived for you, tho’ these words I would never speak.
My heart beat for you, week after week after week,
Sweat from my brow; yours; all my muscles’ yields.
My furrowed face ever lined, gruffness ever stretched a mile;
But by your cool hands was always born a smile;
Once I was a man, oak-strong in these fluttering fields. 

Meteoric rain, taut-skinned demons covered in mud, 
My books, your pictures, all turned to ashes;
While bedeviled madmen lit ever more matches.
But all is never lost; o beloved, o brood of my blood.
Walking forever, a single light at the end of our tunnel,
Past desert and ocean, ‘twould be worth the struggle.
Once I was a man; with hope and fear aflood. 

Spiked club crashed down, my knee cratered.
Again it rose, my beautiful child’s face shattered
You wept cursed screamed; had it ever mattered?
You railed and railed, our child’s corpse blood-spattered,
Unbidden, involuntary, my hands reached for your neck.
Gasping and choking, purple bruises on your flesh.
Once I was a man; dry-faced and battered.

Leaking and torn dinghy, my heart full of dread;
Gigantic wave smashed down, my rage knew no bounds. 
I saw them go under, o beloved, I saw you drown, 
Once I was a man; now I am dead.