Essays    Reportage    Marginalia    Interviews    Poetry    Fiction    Videos    Everything   
Two Poems by Munawwar Abdulla

Say: I am still alive in the birds flown west.

The following poems are part of the Spring Will Come notebook, with art by Efvan.

Elegy for a Home Besieged

In the eyes of machines trained by ghosts,
will I be recognized? Phantom as I am,
I pantomime shadows of what I believe
they who fear the future have taken from me:
the lives of those ruined by lies
and blood ties, anything innocent.
A ghost with a gun herds them into cells.
Say: I am still alive in the desert wells.

When they strip a town of their men
and turn thieves into guards and send writers to factories
hands swollen and bleeding,
could I translate their pain through the screens?
When they enter homes and force-feed our minds,
our mouths, our feet, our eyes.
While I know each minute we step closer to death,
could I still rest?
Say: I am still alive in the birds flown west. 

Remember when they imprisoned you
in the desert, above cities covered in sand.
Remember digging a tunnel to the border,
an escape cut short by a friend despaired.
When they came to our lands on the railroads
they built and built and built
until their eyes glared from every pressure point.
A nervous system wired to react with fight—
we were no longer allowed to take flight.
Will they always dictate us in metal cages?
Say: I am still alive in my heart that rages.

When I ring them from the other side of the sea
to hear a familiar voice, I hear only strangle
as ghosts wring their necks. Eyes wrapped in fear,
I stay silent. What to do next?
When the ghosts in the machines tag me,
flag me with their mark and I despair
for the tongue lost, the bed lost, the web lost.
When I draw from my pen any fight I have left
to tell the world of their rifts, their thefts,
and each night I pray that with hardship comes ease.
Say: I am still alive in the poplar trees.

Little Confessions


In my circle there is your circle.
In my bubble there is yours, I say,
how strange it is to love.


You flew over the oceans to sit in my room.
Do you regret that?
We cried so much. 


Love of the blue watering can
raining on our roots after a sweaty night.
A yawn from the clouds
we breathe in.


Of course, we talk of a mother’s love.
An apple peeled and quartered,
left uneaten. 


We were born under the same star and the same moon
He has annoyed me all my life and before
We laugh about that sometimes
I hope he still annoys me when I am too old to move 


When they are too big for me to carry—
wait, no, they will never be too big.
I will always be bigger, always!
Those little rascals.


I wish I could go home
I think my friends deserve it more
I wish my grandparents could have
They wanted to rest in their soil
from which they grew,
for which they toiled 


The apricot tree
offering sour ghora.
We cackle and eat. 


Perhaps when they tell us to speak our language,
really, they are afraid we will never learn to love in that language.
I am trying to open my heart. 


The world is at peace when she laughs
She has her own special ringtone
Could I make my world proud? 


He is a wanderer traversing the earth for a love song,
he is a romantic fleeing from every love scene,
he is never going to find Love. 


When I write, my heart squeezes
When I work, I glide off a cliff
I don’t scream on roller coasters
The breeze is pleasant, and I love the dips and lurches of all my organs 


Swaying without realizing, tapping a beat I sing, they hear a hum, they hear a drum, pitch rising I sing, with fingers and string, head dancing knee bouncing I sing from within. 

Sometimes I say, “Maybe I shouldn’t?”

But Joy and Grief, they tell me to Sing!


In my room and in my bed
I rest comfortably
A storm laughs outside
I am part of that storm