by Rasaq Malik



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On every door in this village
there are last notes left by families
crossing the sea to another land.
There are promises written in blood,
wishes stamped on the doors by those
whose names are unwritten in the book
of remembrance. In every room that
remains there is the smell of loss.
There is an emptiness that not even
time can fill, the way a woman fills
a watering can this morning with
water before heading to her garden.
There is a dead clock on each wall,
an expired calendar detailing the
dates of massacres in this land where
graves outnumber those who remain,
where trees bear the names of those
buried in a mass grave.

There is no lush field where flowers
can grow. Each flower that remains
is withering like the hope of those
who crave to return to their rooms
after the blasts, after each day of
explosions that render the village
unlivable. There are no children in
the streets to throw balloons into
the air because the streets are
marked as death zones, as places
where bodies are buried on nights
of sieges. Outside a house, there is
a grave of a woman who used to
attend a masjid before the masjid
was lowered to the ground by
insurgents. Somewhere there are
shoes of dead children abandoned
by their parents, boxes of books
left by fleeing loved ones.
There are no trees to shade them,
no one to wake the dead because
the dead are dead, buried in places
where there are no flowers
to adorn them.

Where will the light of morning
emerge from in this land where
the darkness of grief reflects
everywhere? Who will resurrect
the fallen dreams of those who
have crossed borders, leaving
behind their lives in this phantom
land? Sometimes at dusk, the dead
return as shadows, as trees that are
starved of rain.

There is no rain. Nothing
sprouts on this land except
the bones of those they have buried.
On every wall, there are
photographs of those who will never
return to see what remains of their
native lands, those who will,
like Darwish, be buried in a place
far from homeland.

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