507 dead and 22,407 injured in political violence in Bangladesh in 2013
(This poem was first published in World Literature Today).
Heal the scorched flesh and crippled forms
that crowd the wards, having leapt in flames
from a fire-bombed bus, now a charred carcass
where the sky seeps through gaping windows.
Stay the hand that hurls the bomb.
Mend the homes and hearths vandalized,
the buses torched, the stores sacked and gutted.
Calm the angry men who mob the streets,
enlisted by fiery slogans. Unclench their fists.
Return them home where they are missed.
Bless the tailor's apprentice felled one morning
by butcher knives that leapt to flay his flesh
as cameras rolled and bystanders stood, then fled.
Who can blame them who still had lives to save.
Accept the sacrifice of his body and blood.
Bury the dead with their dreams and dreads,
their pain-limned, shrapnel-tormented limbs.
Return them to the grave and grieving earth
and grant this nation new life and breath.
Deliver us from our unfinished birth.
A birthday tribute to Nausheen Eusuf who is a PhD candidate in English at Boston University. Her first collection of poems has just been published by NYQ Books (US) and Bengal Lights Books (Bangladesh).