May 26, 2020

Tishani Doshi

AFTER A SHOOTING IN A MATERNITY CLINIC IN KABUL

No one forgets there’s a war going on,
but there are moments you could be forgiven
for believing the city is still an orchard,
a place where you could make a thing grow.
There is always a pile of rubble from which
some desperate person struggles to rise,
while another person wraps a shawl
around their shoulders and roasts
marshmallows over a fire.
This is not that.
This is not bomb dropping from sky,
human shield, hostages in a stream, child
picking up toy that explodes in her hands—
although there’s always that—hope is a booby trap.
This is the house you were brought to after crossing
a river, leaving the mountains and burnt fields
behind. A place of safety where you
could be alone with your own
startling power.
Not Why were you out? And why
wasn’t your face covered? And who told you
to climb into that rickshaw? But here, prepare
for this most ordinary thing, a birth. And this is not
to ask what it means to never see someone again,
but to ask what it means not to make it past
the first checkpoint of your mother’s gates.
Never mind all the wild places
outside—
the mud-brick villages, the valleys and harvests
and glasses of green tea. Or even to say, I am here
to claim the child of Suraya, because you know
this to be impossible. Even if you could bring a man
to recover your sister’s corpse and the newborn,
where do you go from here? You still have
to consider the bodies, the bullet-ridden
walls, still have to climb up to the small
window of this house and take in
the panorama.
See—it is raining outside and men weep
for their wives, and perhaps the entire world
is an orchard that has detonated its crimson fruits,
its pomegranates and poppies and tart mulberries
to wash these floors red, and those of us who stand
outside this house know that nothing will flourish
here again. Like crowds who gather
for an execution, we can only ask,
what does it mean to be born
in a graveyard, to enter
the world, saying,
oh thief, oh life.

from Poets Respond
May 26, 2020

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Tishani Doshi: “We are going through all kinds of horror with corona but this is a different kind of horror.”

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