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Poems, Pictures & Prose by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee – Page 35

I just called to say …

Sunday 5am.
Curettaged from sleep by Freshly Ground’s doo-be-doo. The true tone pours out of my phone friendly and confusing, surely it couldn’t be time to give face to the morning yet?

But my disorientation would soon be supplanted by something a little more sinister. and doo-be-doo would never sound quite like warm summer sun ever again.

A heavy voice on the other end. Hello?

And obscenity.

Menacing surrealism. I dive into a dark dream limbo where reality sat on the passenger seat, and the voice changed gears and pumped the accelerator.

He knew my name. And still, he continued with his violation.

His voice familiar. Casual conversation forever stained. Every howya-doin now suspect.
Was it you?
or You?

He hid behind a flashing LCD screen – private number. A perverse coward with the manhood of a eunuch.

And he reduced me. A sheer ugliness suffusing through my insides.

The nagging stickiness of thought, I know his voice.

I know his voice.

More fear.

first words

frayed books
frayed schoolbags
an Official Threat
at an Official Whim

a made-in-china
mass market
fickle prop of play
12-year-old Man

when a little girl
‘scared to death’
according to the
Official Transcript
is ‘shot to death’

and three-year-olds
who won’t sit still
could lead
“confirmation of a kill”

I wait for my
baby cousin
to ask-
“they shoot children don’t they?”

The first lesson

Shook from semi-solid sleep. No dreams the night before. Above me, the face of my aunt with invisible strings of some emotion tugging at eyes and mouth.

come kiss your daddy for the last time.

Did she speak those words? Or do I use them now, as putty in the gaps of that day?

Still there he lay, still.

Eyes closed, a cruel imitation of sleep.

My grandmother with her eyes bleeding salt and furious prayer frothing from her lips, while my father’s brother, the Imam, ties a strip of white calico around my father’s head and jaw, wrapping a gift for Allah?

Because that was where daddy was, they told me. With Allah.

What six-year old knows of ritual and rigor mortis.

My aunt leads me to where he lay.

Sleeping daddy. With Allah.


That I remember.

But not much of the rest.

Just the house, a haven for tears.

And the women, these nebulous shapes in black, on the blankets spread out where the lounge furniture used to be.

Tissues and tears. And prayer.

And a bulk swathed in white in the middle.

Where was my mother?

I found her in another room, looking small and distant, as only the bereft can.

I was held close, smothered by the heaviness, infused with her desperation and stifled by what I didn’t understand.

Not then.