An Altar in Taloja

The bars could not bar the priest who dared to build an altar
Inside the darkness of Taloja with the bricks made of
The aspirations of an abandoned people
While the deaf and blind walls guarded him

An Altar in Taloja


By Joe Palathunkal
On the wings of centuries when men and women
Dared to fly to warn the altars of perverted powers,
Shackles of demented laws threw them
Into the hells of condemnation hewed of stony hearts
And in Taloja’s prison a prophet was thrown
Branded as traitor with the hot iron of draconian law
While ferocity stared at like in the den of old
When a prophet was locked up amidst glowering lions!

Dan or Stan handcuffed prophets never cease on earth
When Archelaus and Pilate build altars of power sans truth
With bricks soaked in the blood of the voice of justice
By making every law crippled to load the blame on the lamb.
From Paraguay to Jharkhand continues the dangerous game
To warn every Stan Swamy against daring to be the mirror
Of the ones with the pierced soul and bruised face.
Even if in a dungeon the prophet is thrown and shut
The voice of guts amidst the lambs of silence turns into
A classroom that teaches silence is a crime when violence
Makes you mute and blind and the pedagogy of Stan Swamy
Comes alive in spite of the prison bars!

The bars could not bar the priest who dared to build an altar
Inside the darkness of Taloja with the bricks made of
The aspirations of an abandoned people
While the deaf and blind walls guarded him
And the priest brought on his altar all the tears of his people
For whom he laboured without counting the cost
And raised above the altar with shivering hands that sublime host
Made of the rights of his people the least and the lost
While the chalice he raised had the blood shed
On the cross crafted by the Pharisees and Pilates!
A gunshot was heard from an altar in a far away land
When he raised the host and chalice on the altar in Taloja
And saw a priest tumbling down by the altar with the chalice
While a roar was heard from the altar of power to warn:
Herods need the heads of prophets who dare to speak the truth
To the thrones drunk with power that lost the eye and ear
And to dance a Salome they will easily discover!!!

(Dedicated to human rights activist Jesuit Father Stan Swamy 84 incarcerated in Taloja prison Bombay since October 8, 2020 and who died in custody on July 5, 2021. Paraguay refers to the Jesuit Reductions of 17th century among the indigenous people of Paraguay, Brazil and beyond. The Oscar winner Mission is based on this. Today July 28, 2021 is the National Justice Day to pay homage to Fr. Stan Swamy.)

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