Caught in Myanmar’s Rohingya Tragedy,
a Bride Fights to Reach Her Groom
—Wall Street Journal
go and dawning dusk like a hood
Meghna clasped her sacks of silt and on
a wave of horses wild she went. She went
and wound through valleys, traded, hybridized
her stores. She went through jungles thick and used
the mangrove roots as sieves. To the sea she went
and cast a pure seed of land: Bhasan Char.
Ill-fated blip in a cemetery
of water; pregnant tawny belly bare
amid blue sheets; what this womb would release
she knew not if her lord god Mountain knew.
That old word
go meant build and so she did.
For ages her island grew in the sea,
sprouted and nursed on the milk of the sun.
Traffickers in nightmares skirted her gift
and scowled before its true use dawned on them.
Then, without violence nor a tender bone,
they watched it grow, the ocean thin as over
its bald head tides rushed, the ocean swaddle it
with froth that formed as currents parted round.
And, as it goes, soon enough it was land:
Bhasan Char, offspring of the age, desolate
and mum; in it, the cagey angst of Legion;
in it, bad ju-ju. The doomed saint of oases,
penitent and oblivious it crouched
and swelled amidst the floggings of the sea,
devout and noble serf awaiting purpose,
patiently, it found, awaiting feet.
Sadeka in the dark among the sharks.
Sadeka in the sea, thrown overboard
and told to swim. To swim where she knew not.
Sadeka, a skeleton lost in garbs
waterlogged, being tugged through currents wan.
Sadeka among the women, dozens.
Aeons beneath the sibilance of surf
are splashes. Far below the altitude
of waves are what seem seals, pitch as the night.
Sadeka: Persephone of Bhasan Char.
Sadeka spotted far out in the sea,
her cadre streamed into Mountain’s blank dream.
In the middle of nothing then something.
In the belly of the sea virgin land.
Just sand, but land. Sadeka stopped swimming.
Sadeka moaned from new shore, a Siren,
and to the sound the women flocked. They prayed,
Allah, but too quick for it was Limbo.
Bhasan Char felt a crumb within his sheet,
driftwood, some stone, he thought, the first turtle,
and drifted back to sleep, soothed by caresses
of Meghna giving herself to salt,
largesse unmatched, the constant souse of sand
and more of him to be touched by the sea.
But then there was the tread of a hundred feet.
And then there was the banking of steel boats,
the blunt puncture of pylons and dead weight
of blocks and pipes and wires and shrill wailing.
He listened, Bhasan Char, for intimations
from Mountain through the mouth of Meghna.
A cannonball, he steeled himself against
the weight like and of his predestined people.
Of hope, the beacon, he, he heard it said.
No shade in this light, not even a rock’s
shadow. Eye ruthless, eye dread, eye of all
for eyes of all making this here Man clear,
shining through skin unto the heart at work
on this small lawless plain where no fibers
in spotless air connect this cruel species.
Upon his back, Bhasan Char, blocks are built.
Delivered unto the sea as haven,
he saves only from wind and deaths by water
and stretches time; provides a promenade
worn by aimless feet, contrails of misery
and memory fuming out blown headscarves
of purgatorial maidens he’ll swallow.
Sadeka gets a cellphone, how who knows.
From Mountain’s bowels too such comes; the wires
where a lightbulb was also, granting charge.
Transmissions to just as helpless kinsmen
sent out across the service-hating sea.
Sadeka and the ladies each day plead.
No more poetry in a grain of sand,
in the sun, the canonical ocean,
only terror and terror and terra firma
stripped to bare bones and haunted by some old
trauma that brittled rock. Sadeka dwells
on the back of Bhasan Char, ridicules
his easy submission to fate, land mass
subject to selfsame brutal laws, and spits
on him. She regrets resisting her grave.
Feeling the wind claw at her headdress, she,
Sadeka, takes the cloth between her fingers
and sees, again, Yasmin hanging from hers.
from Poets Respond
March 1, 2021
Cody Kucker: “This poem was composed in response to the tragedy of exile and persecution currently being suffered by Rohingya Muslims at the hands of the Myanmar government. The poem makes use of several bits of information, though not necessarily directly, contained in this article, most particularly, the astonishing and almost Biblical phenomenon of Bhasan Char itself, which had not existed until 2003. It also of course builds up to the article’s firsthand account of women increasingly, and tragically, entertaining the idea of suicide. The story itself is also contained as an epigraph to the poem.”