instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Poem-a-Day

The Farmer Suicide Conference

The Farmer Suicide Conference

 

It was held somewhere in Andhra Pradesh,

  On a campus that felt abandoned, the fig trees

White with dust, the green buildings seeming 

 

To tremble in the sun, as if they hadn't decided

  Yet whether to be. But we entered them as if

They were real and went up the stairs

 

To classrooms in which papers were presented,

  The oscillating fans making the pages flutter

In the hands of professors of statistics

 

And microeconomics and political science,

  Lithe, mustachioed men who could sit on their heels

For hours. At night, we gathered on the porch

 

Of a house that might have been 

  A farmhouse had it been out in the country,

Drinking big bottles of Kingfisher beer.

 

By way of explanation as to why I was there,

  I must have told them about my father who,

Right then, was waking up on the other side 

 

Of the earth to milk a hundred Holsteins, 

  And they must have known that, if I was there,

There was no danger of him killing himself.

 

I loved those professors who, when they agreed, 

  Would rock their heads from side to side,

Ear to shoulder, as if trying to clear them of water

 

So as to better hear each other, and who'd spend 

  Their whole careers toiling in the fields

Of forlorn Indian universities. I recognized them

 

As the bookish sons who'd left the farm but who

  Kept going back through math or poetry

Because even while we were drinking beer

 

A man was struggling to lift a plastic drum

  Over his head in order to pour the viscous red

Poison down his throat, committing suicide

 

By drinking pesticide, not to protest Monsanto,

  But because it was the deadliest thing

He had at hand. I think now of how when

 

His son turned him over, he must have

  Looked like those old women who smiled at me

In the street, their teeth stained red with betel leaf.

Be the first to comment