In 2016, the Department of Roads knocked down the sign by a river in Saptari District, changing its name from the Tharu word ‘Gaihri’ (Deep) to replace it with the meaningless name ‘Gahidi’, in part of a wider movement of cultural erasure against names of significance in the Tharu community, in Nepal.
How could you slip a new history across the water
on the back of the name so close to the word for horse?
A sickening, hand-reared history. An all blubber and no muscle horse.
Ears flat back horse. Like winter to touch horse.
Horse that clicks the dull machines of its eyes, which are in the front of its head.
The angled bowl of its chest tips over as it balks along the riverbank.
A horse, spilling its pigeon-heart.
Crossing the river, its dish hooves would churn under its weight.
It’s swept along.
Of all the names – the most un-beautiful horse.
It would turn to look at the broken mechanics of its body and think –
How did it get like this, these rusty pistons, this empty birdcage?
Bred by cowards. Teetering stones for shoulders.
The body: a wet, clenched fist.
Much too tight. A horse that’s all scarred knuckle, fractured bone like the map of a river.
The white rings of its eyes would pool like milk.
Teeth show pathetically. Nostrils balloon.
A horse no match for the village who guard against wilder things
than an empty-named beast,
a horse no match for the people who named the river
for the dash of its current, its depth, its love of drowning.