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Kunwar Narain, from No Other World: Selected Poems

The Killing of a Tree

This time, he was not there —
the old tree that always stood to attention,
like a guard, at the door to my house.

His worn leathery trunk,
weather-beaten life
wrinkled rough upright shabby,
branch like a rifle,
hat of leafy flowers,
rugged boots on feet
creaking coarse courage.

In sun in rain
in heat in cold
untiringly alert
in khaki fatigues

He'd accost one from afar "who goes there?"),("A friend," I'd answer
and sit down for a moment
under his benign shade

In fact, there always lurked in our ways
the mortal fear of some common foe —
such that        the house had to be saved from thieves
the city from plunderers
the nation from its enemies

had to be saved —
river from becoming drain
air from becoming smoke
food from becoming poison
jungles from becoming deserts
people from becoming jungles.