Rasaq Malik

Ode to my Son's Life
                    Saudi Arabia is facing an international outcry after at least 29
                    children were among dozens of civilians killed by a US-backed
                    Saudi-led coalition airstrike that hit a bus in Yemen’s
                    Houthi rebel-held north
—The Guardian. Aug. 9th, 2018.

Tonight it is neither a different world nor a new country.
My son is in bed while I unfold my grief in the dark.

On the radio, the broadcaster says that the streets of Dahyan
are full of dead children. In my heart there is a room full

of women wailing over the dead bodies of their children
after a blast. Tonight I am the woman who is too scared

to sleep, the woman who pronounces amen to every prayer
that begins with may you never lose and bury any of your children.

Tonight my son is in bed while I stand in his room, my mind
racing to vacant rooms whose walls bear the portraits

of missing children, children whose remains are bagged,
cremated, entombed, crammed inside a boat, buried

at sea. I am the woman who will not sleep tonight in this
country where every night I search my son’s face for the

light of peace, for something assuring, something that
promises that he is safe enough to sleep without bombs

circling the sky. Tonight it is neither a different
country nor a blissful world. The sky is sinister and the

moon is too dark to brighten the streets. My son is in
bed while the dread of losing him to blasts gnaws my

heart, while the endless grief of being a mother
in this country that gifts us sad news ruins my heart.



My Mother Carries the Trauma of This Country

Like a bag. She wears it, too, like a burqa.
Sometimes, she tells us that this country is the carcass

of a dead dream, the ashes of what used to be a stronghold,
the picture of a boy buried in the absence of his mother, the last

dress worn by a girl who used to hawk oranges before
bombs wrecked her village. My mother carries the trauma

of this land as she wakes up every day to gather the fragments
of her dreams, to remember the children bearing the scars of war

and abandonment in the streets, the children whose parents are
buried somewhere in this land where everything that exists is

pillaged by war, where every village is a ghost haunting our
dreams. My mother knows the smell that oozes out of the sore

of this country, the pain that wrenches its body and the fear
that throbs its frail heart. My mother knows where blood flows

from to this country, where people wake up every day to attend
masjid and never return home to meet their families. My mother

carries the trauma of this country to places where her stories will
be told to people who will learn that in every war, children are

always dying, houses are always burning, the number of the dead
is always miscalculated, there is no peace.



Rasaq Malik is a graduate of the University of Ibadan. His chapbook, No Home In This Land, selected for Chapbook Box edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani has been published. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Rattle, New Orleans Review, Spillway, Poet Lore, Michigan Quaterly Review, One, Minnesota Review, and elsewhere. He won Honorable Mention in 2015 Best of the Net for his poem Elegy, published in One. In 2017, Rattle and Poet Lore nominated his poems for the Pushcart Prize. He was shortlisted for Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2017. He was a finalist for Sillerman First Book for African Poets in 2018.