Tonight In My Country

The bird howling outside my window reminds me
of a city burning to cinders, a woman arranging

the tombstones on her child’s grave in a town full
of crows feasting on the dead. Somewhere in a city

where the doors of empty houses are decorated with
the photographs of dead children, a man races on a

deserted street with his son on his shoulder after
a blast. Tonight in my country of birth I watch my

child sleep safely in bed while somewhere there are
children smuggled across borders to strange lands,

immigrant children hurried by the sea to their graves,
their mothers wailing a flood of tears on their little tombs.

It is hard being a mother when the only language that invades
your mouth bears the syntax of grief, when some days the

morning arrives in a cart crammed with bombed bodies
of children for us to bury, when some days the earth collects

our dead and gifts us an eternity of sorrow, when some days
the earth widens with the bodies of our dead occupying it

like air. It is a sad world on days when bullets quake my
son’s classroom till the floor shifts beneath his feet;

on nights when my child watches me surrender to grief,
to everything that reminds me of the bird howling outside

my window tonight, mourning its child, the way there are
women mourning their children in places ruined by bombs,

the way there are women crying tonight in places bereft
of neither the light of the world nor the hope for the future.

Rasaq Malik‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salt Hill, Stand, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Rattle, New Orleans Review, Spillway, Poet Lore, 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.