This summer, we’ll be featuring different poets, writers, and artists to foster constructive and inclusive conversations around new works, provide greater context for newly published pieces, and generate increased visibility for writers and artists amidst global disruption. For our very first feature, we’ll be highlighting budding poet Swapnil Dhruv Bose.
Swapnil Dhruv Bose is an English Literature student at Presidency University, Kolkata. He loves playing chess and is a massive fan of Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays and the work of Samuel Beckett. He has been published in Ohio State University’s literary journal Asterism. He hopes to become a professor of postmodern literature someday.
Check out his poem Counterfeit Children, a piece included in the 365 Collection, and his break down of the piece below:
I got a landmine for my last birthday.
She ordered me to plant it in our yard.
The government had given it away
Because it lost its citizenship card.
They send a maintenance team once a year
To make sure we kneel before it and pray.
I had to sell the new car and my ear,
Only to stuff our dilated mouths with clay.
The neighbours hide in Papier-mâché shelters
When we light pink flares in our garden.
They complain about the fire hazards.
I smile and hide it in our oven.
She scratched out each number on its skin.
We put a dress on it and named it “Fin”.
First stanza: I wanted to address the significant political atrocity that has been occurring since the end of 2019. The government passed a law called the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which grants citizenship based on religious orientation, and therefore discriminates on that very basis. They demand documents to prove that one is a citizen but in a country like India, many people do not have proper documents. On top of that, the entire process of being documented is often abused and sometimes citizenship cards are issued in the name of Hindu Gods.
My main motive was to talk about how the government’s priorities regarding citizenship criteria leads to the retroactive creation of corrupt economies. The bomb becomes a locus of mortality anxiety as well as xenophobia. It is not acknowledged by the government as a useful resource as soon as it loses what lends it subjectivity: its nationality (according to the government’s definition). It becomes the “Other”.
Second Stanza: I wanted this stanza to focus on how the landmine slowly demolishes all feelings of security. The maintenance team (of domestic explosive devices) that arrives to take care of the bomb does not care about the technical details but rather the ideological conformity of its caretakers, to make sure they do not use it against the government while making them feel as if the government cares about them. To pay for the maintenance, the speaker has to sell himself off in pieces within a year of receiving it.
With this, I wanted to talk about how unfair it is for the underprivileged to pay taxes just to see their hard-earned money go to the Defense Budget instead of actual welfare programs; instead of superficial ones like the Bomb Maintenance Squad.
Third Stanza: For this stanza, I wanted to develop the idea of the neighborhood as a microcosmic reflection of the general population. The neighbors project all their xenophobic anxiety towards the undocumented bomb while hiding in dysfunctional shelters provided by the government. They survive because of this false sense of security as well.
The speaker lights “pink” flares (the government does not provide red ones in order to dismiss any lit flares during emergencies as celebratory) to draw attention to his dire condition but the maintenance team has already visited this year. Therefore, the government can justify neglecting the ones who need help. The neighbors protest against the lighting of the flares when they should be protesting the existence of the bomb, but they don’t because the government has taught them that bombs are good, people are bad.