Horrified by the carnage during the Gulf War in 1991, Fan Yew Teng tapped furiously on his typewriter to come up with this emotionally charged poem.
Mama, where are these killer birds from?
From far away, my love.
Mama, why do they come so many times?
They want to kill all of us, perhaps.
I don’t know, love; they are at war with us.
But they’ve killed Grandpa and Grandma
and my friends, the cats, the flowers and the trees …
they’ve done nothing wrong …
I know, my love, they were killed, but
not because they’ve done anything wrong.
Then, why, why, why, Mama?
Simply because they were here.
Mama, I am sick, hungry and thirsty …
Yes, love, I know. We are all sick, hungry and thirsty.
They have destroyed our water, our food, our baby milk powder,
our hospitals and clinics, our doctors and nurses …
They have also destroyed my school, Mama.
Yes, love and our mosque, our house, and Tony’s church …
their thunder and lightning have covered up the Sun
with smoke, noise and blood … and fire and fury …
Can’t we go away from this heap of bricks, Mama?
No, love, the roads are blocked by debris and rubble,
and they’ve killed the buses, taxis and lorries.
Mama, where is Papa?
He has gone to fight the killer birds.
Will he come back to us soon, Mama?
I don’t know. I hope so. Be a brave girl.
I miss Papa, Mama.
Yes, I know, for I miss him too.
Now, be a good girl, give some water to baby brother,
for my breasts are dry.
Mama, Mama, the killer birds are roaring in again!
Be brave, my love, be brave…
Mama, Mama, the giant firecrackers are here!
They are giant bombs and rockets.
They are coming, Mama! They are exploding!
Be brave, be brave, my little girl.
Mama, I’m scared.
Lovely, take your baby brother to a safer place
after the killer birds have flown away.
And you, Mama?
What about you?
I’m scared, Mama.
Mama! Mama! Mama!
Don’t die, Mama!
Don’t leave us alone, Mama!
Speak to us, Mama, so that we may cry together.
Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!
– 9 March 1991