Friday, March 22, 2019

Rizwan Saleem writes


Multi colored, used blankets
That’s what they brought them in
Wrapped and ensconced
Almost as if they were asleep
In a way they were weren’t they?
Small bundles, medium size bundles
And some large ones too
All shapes and all colors
Never knew they could come in such varieties
Now they placed these on the ground
And the mob gathered, rushed to them
As if it contained treasures
Well almost, they were treasures
Or at least used to be
The reactions were different when the folds were opened
Stunned silence, wails and sobs
And of course the obligatory calls to almighty
The dusty roads threw up dust, which heralded the coming
Of another vehicle bearing gifts
And those of us standing empty handed and in wait
Knew, that very soon we’d be on the receiving end.
Wails, mourns, tears, blankets!
So very useful indeed
So there were two pick ups
And they came to a screeching halt
Just before the gathered crowd,
It had hardly stopped when some immediately reached into the rear
And then bundles in blankets, lots of them
For all of us!
Saw a turquoise blue one this time
Very artsy with embroidery
Wondering if mine was wrapped in it
Took steps towards the truck 
And the guy standing in the rear was hollering
To come quickly as if he was distributing free food or some boon
Feet seemed stuck to the ground as if tied to ball and chain
But had to get there, someone was waiting
If to find solace in the craziest of things
It was the blue one after all
And in it was folded something else too, an answer 
A whole life of prayer and obedience
And one day
You’ll be made to receive the body of your child
From the back of a rusty pickup truck
Wrapped in a turquoise embroidered blanket 

[Last year in August, a bus carrying school children in Yemen was hit by a missile mistaking them for rebels. This poem is about its aftermath.] 
Image result for dead babies in blankets paintings--Saul Martinez

1 comment:

  1. Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi organized Ansar Allah ("Supporters of God") in northern Yemen in the 1990s; the "Houthi" (al-Ḥūthiyyūn) were mostly members of the Zaidi (az-zaydiyya) sect, the major Shia group in the country, and the oldest Shia branch. The sect ruled Yemen for a millennium until 1962, when the military seized control. The az-zaydiyya emerged in reverence of a failed 8th-century uprising against the Ummayad kalifah led by Zaid ibn 'Ali, the great grandson of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the 4th kalifah (the 1st male to accept the teachings of his cousin/father-in-law Muhammad, he was assassinated in 661.) Zaid's rebellion set a precedent for revolution against corrupt rulers. Hussein accused the Yemeni government of financial corruption and was killed resisting arrest in 2004. His brother Abdul-Malik al-Houthi continued the revolt and seized the capital in late 2014. In March 2015 Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies, including the United Arab Emirates, attacked neighboring Yemen, claiming the Houthi were supported by Iran, the leading Shia state. On 9 August 2018 coalition forces, using an American-made laser-guided 500-pound (227-kg) MK 82, bombed a school bus in a crowded market in Dahyan, close to the Saudi border. It killed 51 (including 40 children) and injured 79 (including 56 kids). To celebrate their graduation from summer school, the boys, aged 6 to 11, were on a field trip to a graveyard for martyrs. The official Saudi Arabian press agency called the strike a "legitimate military action" which targeted those who were responsible for a rebel missile attack on the Saudi city of Jizan.


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