There are echoes of the state of its creator’s homeland, too. Ayushman hails from Jammu, a place that has been in the throes of conflict for decades now. I cannot claim to be know all the details of what has been happening in Jammu and Kashmir, but I do know that my opinion does not coincide with Ayushman’s. He is much closer to the conflict than I am, as he points out in the poem ‘We Remember, Our Nation Forgets’, about the situation of Kashmiri Pandits. In ‘May the Valley Hear Me Roar’, he makes clear his allegiance to the nation-state of India. The narrative revolves around the idea that the Indian military will protect even those that want to destroy India. I question every single word in that narrative.
However, his passion, albeit almost frightening in the intensity of his conviction, carries through in the language of the poem. Interestingly, the poem ‘The Warrior’s Wife’ could apply to both the soldiers he honours and the rebels he berates, as it asks, ‘What is honour before the love of a woman?’ The lament of losing a woman’s love is also there in ‘Rama’s Lament’, in which the God-king mourns the Sita he wronged. I leave you, the reader, to think about the idea of the woman as a nurturer, somehow responsible for the moral authority of the world a la John Ruskin.
The titular poem is interesting in its ambiguity.
The language of the entire book can be quite grandiose, and this is no exception. Perhaps the poem is about the poet, although it could just as easily be about the reader.
During our interview last year, Ayushman had mentioned that he thinks of song lyrics as poems. This is clear in the book, both from the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the poetry as well as from individual poems like ‘Neon Chaos’ (“to the neon Gods they made…”). Simon and Garfunkel resides in the heart of the book, as does Chester Bennington, the lost rock star we grew up with.
The poem I related to the most was ‘The Lost Artist’, which I understood to be a poem about writer’s block. To say that I’ve been there is an understatement. It’s horrible, and the serenity and acceptance in the poem fights with the tension of knowing that, as an artist, you are failing to do the one thing you love the most.
No poem can be tied to a single interpretation, and so no book of poetry and no poet can be understood completely by a single person.