Image by Mormei Zanke
Poem by Afeed Areifiz
I’ve written about “my people” before
and then I’ve heard them call back “your people?”
Who now gave you our voices? You lived in a home
made of foreign paper with foreign walls.
Your sweet nothings are whispered
in words that took the infant letters from our language
Your poetry wears the skin we were taught to fear.
aren’t you a privileged, little songbird?
Even if your courage to write is as expansive as the ocean that divides
your pen from our blood; your voice from our nation.
Even if you can imagine half the reality you did not see, and the other half
you sculpted out of this
Black — Marble.
You cannot be one of us.
I have a fear of good words losing themselves in our
Languages. We choose to make our lifetimes last
in the most convenient of voices.
My people will say I am fallen
because where Bangla is
the fires of our martyrs, we who weave
ink to taste of spice, and saffron and family
to dance between blades of golden rice,
and our hands, run, through coarse jute kisses
our voices: proud and strong and many.
In English we find our tongues heeled and
our forefathers mute. Our gold as pyrite:
I hear them say:
“Songbird, you are as different,
as the ink wetting your fingers — from us
you are foreign. When we
slaved and sweat and stirred restless
where were you?
When our teeth quivered and our throats
were parched from their dry, lifeless words,
why did you sing for them? When we bled, which hallowed branch
led you to stray to us, to drink?”
And can anyone say that they
were just afraid
then and now.
that, among their people, they are the mute
who barely holds on to the songs
their grandparents whispered them to sleep.
Their clipped wings wrote their stories — dared
songbirds to flight.
When you slaved, I watched,
when you gasped for water, I drank our red sunsets.
and now when I sing I use their words,
but your ink — their voices, and your songs. Their lips for us to sip.
Now when I stray, I stray onto your hands.
Let them run over coarse, muddied feathers.
I choose to make my people’s lifetimes last,
In the voice I have chosen.