CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, 2017
and after fear,
after abandoning hope.
After death, death again.
After one blind eye, millions more.
there is no after; it has only ever continued.
What do I reach for now?
Who do I appeal to now?
Did anyone ever figure out
whether the Devil negotiates,
or is it only Death who plays chess?
To look into the eyes of a white supremacist
who wants me to die.
Am I supposed to fight this?
To encounter the physical strength of a man
who believes raping me is his prerogative.
Am I supposed to fight this?
Yes. Yes of course I fight this.
What is my other option?
Hiding buys me time, but not life,
and anyway if I am to live, I am to be found.
Is there a version of this battle where any of us wins?
You do not need to kill me to be free.
You do not need to love me to leave me be.
What could you possibly want
from my absence, my massacre?
What satisfaction are you granted?
What threat are you saved?
This wildfire of sadism—
what is peaceful resistance
against the deranged honor,
sick pride, unmistakable grin,
of you who takes pleasure in persecution?
Maybe it’s not fair of me
to conclude that sadism is what fuels
your Nazi slogans,
your torched sticks, your loaded guns.
But I am trying every other avenue
and you are eroding
the possibility of each one.
Maybe, like me, even you can’t understand.
Maybe the way my soul says
you cannot take away
my right to be alive, to be here,
maybe you are simply afraid,
and you haven’t yet seen how there’s life
have never felt
the miracle of kindness from a stranger
who owes you nothing,
whom history has taught to hate you,
but who instead offers their hand.
that in blood and brain
we are the same.
But today I feel the differences we’ve grown,
through practice, conditions and choice,
are evolutionary in their divide:
we are becoming different species.
Be cautious with that thought.
I will not dehumanize you.
I will not do what you do.
I have faith in transformation.
I have faith in whole universes of the self,
previously impossible, becoming known.
But faith is no shield.
It doesn’t have money, doesn’t feed the hungry,
has no voice among the 1%.
It can’t undo fascism,
can’t validate me in the eyes of a president who emboldens
people who savor my destruction.
These hate-ruptures in each state,
in each country:
it is like watching a drop of ink
fall upon a wet map. It spreads rapidly leaks
everywhere, and I stare as it seeps its way toward
where I stand.
What is the difference between standing in blood
and standing next to it?
My ground is still dry.
run a little faster,
get a little farther,
reach out to people with hands clasped over their ears,
bring aid to those who have fallen in the wet red.
This is no longer a fight.
It’s the how of love.
The maybe of another breath.
The conversation I don’t want to have
the patience I don’t want to draw forth
the anger I hold for protection
the fire I keep trying to avoid
the wall of paralysis: fear for my life–
I drop it all here.
This is not about wanting.
Not about a choice I have to make.
the only way
I can make sense of living.
Nandita Batheja is a writer and facilitator living in New York City. She co-builds and insists on inclusive, thriving, equitable communities through her work with Yes!, InterPlay, art & eden and her own relationships.
Image by Arnolds Auziņš.