Before attacking schools in Pakistan the Taliban sends kafan, a marking
of Muslim burials, as a way of psychological terror.
The white linen arrives to school
A gift to begin wrapping the bodies.
They send flowers before guns now
all the thorns plucked from the stems.
An order to weave the dirge
before the mortar sings. The moment
our babies are born, are we meant
to lower them into the ground?
Every year I manage to live on this earth
I collect more questions than I do answers.
In my dreams, the children are still alive
at school. In my dreams they still play
unaware of what is coming.
I wish them only a mundane life.
Arguments with parents. Groundings.
Chasing a budding love around the playground.
Iced mango slices in the hot summer.
Lassi dripping from their lips.
Fear of being unmarried. Hatred of the family
next door. Kheer at graduation. Fingers licked
with henna. Blisters on the back of a heel.
Pulling hair off a friend’s arm.
Loneliness in a bookstore. Fingerprints
on spine. Walking home with the sun
at their backs. Searching the street
for a missing glove. Nothing glorious.
I promise. Just, alive.
I lose track of whom I am begging.
a vast cave I fear when its depths answer.
& hear only the sound of my own haunting.
I will believe
in any god that offers me a new beginning.
I will believe
in any god. Man, metal or magic.
My friend’s voice lands, a bird shriveled with sorrow.
She is visiting the houses that once had children.
We are too busy trying to separate the good terrorists
from the bad.
The line hums. The silence a simmer across mountains.
Again, I hear the bird ruffle its wings. A worm twists
in my throat.
How do you kill someone who isn’t afraid of dying?
The line hums.
I didn’t know I needed to worry
about them until they were gone.
My uncle gifts me his youngest memory:
a parking lot full of bodies
screams & a forest waiting to protect.
In all our family histories, one wrong
turn & then, death. Violence
not an over there but a memory asleep
in our blood, waiting to rise.
We know this from our nests—
the bad men wanting to end us.
Every year, we call them something new.
British. Americans. Indians. Hindus. Terrorists.
The steady dirge of our hearts pounding
vicious, as we prepare the white
linen, as we ready to wrap our bodies.
© Fatimah Asghar