We heard the drum before the cock,
Before the clock, before the Call
Of muezzin at prayer dawn.
We heard the rhythm on the drum
And knew the meaning it conveyed:
Another person has succumbed.
We heard the drum, we filed outdoors,
We saw the man on makeshift bier,
We saw the son in drummers’ trance,
We saw the utter thanklessness
Of people who refused to come
Ahead to help the lonely son
Of him who kept our gutters clean.
I stepped ahead and stood near him,
A brahmin breaking tradition
To partake in the cremation
Of someone from the lowest caste.
I saw the eyes, alarmed and wide,
I saw the accusations rise,
I saw the coldness settle in,
I saw that I had lost something.
In time, the drum elicited
The others who would dare to cross
The lines of caste on grounds of trust,
And thrust ahead without a thought
For all the drama that awaits
The ones who break the street’s decree.
I looked inside the rising flames
For bridges I had burned in it.