I have not been the same since I spoke to the man from Kashmir.
He caused a fissure in my unseen life: which is a trail inside me, never surfacing and wide enough for one person to walk.
A path about which I rarely speak because I don’t know where the hell it’s taking me;
and I prefer to look cool and self-directed like the women on TV: my lipstick flawless and my nails contoured and glistening like scarab beetles….
A man I do not know threw a veil between me and the world. A mourning shroud.
A1 Plexus; thread, wood, hooks and steel; 2015. Gabriel Dawe, born Mexico City, 1973, lives in the United States.
Installed at the Renwick Museum, the craft musuem of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
I remember thinking: do I need a man whom I do not know to throw me into a grief for a place I do not know
when there are men and places that I do know whose names are ‘Grief’ to me?
But this Kashmir grief, of course, is itself a pointer elsewhere. It is not self-contained.
CreditBettmann Archive/Getty Images
Published in the NY Times on August 15, 2019 with an opinion piece by Arundhati Roy, Silence is the Loudest Sound.
It overflows down its mountains, seeps its way across the subcontinent; merges with oceans to lap at other shores, infiltrates distant deltas; carries itself in rain to yet other mountains and valleys.
To disrupt the lives of people far away.
Kashmir – I understood that from the moment he pronounced the word – pulsing on the edge of my conscious mind which had assured me that I need not be concerned because I am neither Indian nor Pakistani – that that word would represent to me
exile, civil war, the loss of whole generations
women brutalized as a tool of war
children traumatized for all their lives
the gratuitous destruction of homes and peoples and institutions
the suborning of the religious systems which sustain populations.
Everywhere in the world where there is civil war and forms of ethnic cleansing.
Kashmir by any other name.
As to why a man I don’t know speaking his sorrow about a place I don’t know can discombobulate me like this:
I don’t know because that trail does not reveal its ways and means to me and none of us knows where our thoughts arise.
The trail beckons me on.
Pushing sometimes because thick brambles obscure the path behind me so that I cannot go back.
What I do know is this: the Heart has its reasons of which Reason knows nothing;
and it is the Heart which is the mistress of the places, people, knowledge, emotions which profoundly find us.
Veil from Thetis, ink, pigment, gesso on paper, 2013. Sam Messenger, British born 1980
And whenever the Kashmir Worldwide Desolation threatens to incapacitate me, I recite this as a consolation of the world’s unending, regenerating and multiform life:
Any Common Desolation
Ellen Bass, American born 1947
can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.