Dead tongues speak

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Katrina J Maliamauv has written a poem on the genocide taking place in Myanmar.

I don’t know how else to tell you
There’s a genocide happening right now.
We teeter around this word,
Nervous of its implications
As if haste in using it is a bigger crime
Than the acts themselves.
We say wait and see,
Let the decision makers in the ICC
Or wherever it is powerful men decide these things
Come to conclude.
But we wait, and we wait
And the pieces that make up this thing
we don’t want to claim
Form a picture so monumental in its horror
We can only swallow and look away,
Unable to comprehend,
To name,
To hold in our throats,
And hands,
Let alone to act.

I don’t know how else to say
There’s a genocide happening right now.
Not a metaphor, not inflated speech
But the necessarily loaded word to describe
The intention to end, to erase, to murder and
To make never be
An entire community.

They say 400,000 people have fled
In less days than make up a month;
They say 600,000 children would have run
To Bangladesh before the new year strikes;
They say one out of eight stateless persons
In the world are Rohingya
They say.
They say.
They’ve been saying
For decades now
As they, the ones spoken of,
Remain kept in cages;
Metaphorical cages of statelessness
Physical cages of rickety boats,
And slave camps at borders between two
Countries in a map of worlds
that don’t ever want them.

Dehumanised, and detained
Stigmatised, and persecuted
Described as roaches and ogres,
Black-skinned and unwanted,
Illegal never person,
Never people,
never flesh and bone
And soul and beating heart.
They say, and they’ve said
In polite words and policy papers,
Poetry and pictures framed
For unlistening ears and unopened eyes.

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I don’t know how else to say
There’s a genocide in our midst
Pictures try to patch the hollowness of words
Babies unburied, their bodies rotting
On earth terrorised by hatred;
Rows of homes razed down to the ground
Satellite images of scorched villages,
Snapshots from the sky
Hoping to fill the unmet prayers to heaven
Pleas for the terror to stop.
Images of sunken cheeks,
And eyes dimmed out of life,
Swollen bellies,
And skin hanging onto skeletons,
Of barely there people in camps,
And boats and detention sites.

They say a thousand Rohingya
are fleeing every hour
What is it to flee?
To leave bedrooms and soil
Stories and toys
And favourite things to wear;
To escape a land that doesn’t want you
Into a world of closed doors and
Concentration camps.
To be torn from home and memories
Where your life was born unto
And your ancestors buried.
What is it to never be wanted;
To be hated so fervently even as you leave,
Landmines placed on your path as you run,
Splintering bone and puncturing flesh,
Blowing off limbs from bodies
Already bullet-torn and brutalised.

I don’t know how else to say
To find words that crack beyond
And refugee
Into person tortured and terrorised
And desperately trying to stay alive.
What configuration of words is needed,
For us to see human and soul
Not legal definitions and political rows.
How do we twist our tongues into action,
To place pressure on the wound
As they bleed off this earth?

I don’t know what statement of fact,
Is needed before we act.
I don’t know how else to tell you,
There’s a genocide in our midst.

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– katrina j maliamauv, 22 september 2017

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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