Rasaq Malik

Rasaq Malik is a graduate of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals, including Michigan Quaterly Review, Poet Lore, Spillway, Rattle, Juked, Connotation Press, Heart Online Journal, Grey sparrow, Jalada, and elsewhere. He is a two-time nominee for Best of the Net Nominations. His poem was among the finalists for the 2015 Best of the Net Nominations. Recently, Rattle Magazine and Poet Lore nominated his poems for the 2017 Pushcart Prize.

 

After My Grandma’s Burial

We sit on the benches at the
facade of our house, my mother
in a dark gown, my father attending
to visitors, the children staring at the
grave of my grandma, their thoughts
too frail to decipher the meaning
of burying a beloved. At night we
remember those who are not lucky
enough to have a decent burial,
those who lie in unknown places,
those who find solace in caressing
the photographs of their lost relatives,
those who are murdered in the cold
of war, those who wake up to see
bullet holes on their doors,
those who learn how to pray as
they wilt in the fire of bombs,
those who pass through the dark
as they carry the burden of war.
At night we listen to the voices
of our beloveds in the walls
of empty rooms, in the leaves
that sway as wind blows, in the
silence that thickens as we
remember how death happens,
how we become dust, scraps in
the kitchen, fossils for earth to
devour, bones that never rise
no matter the force of rain.

 

We Don’t Know Where We Belong

Because home is no longer the tender skin
of an infant, the kohl on the face of a bride,
the smooth texture of a stone beneath a sea,
the indelible memories of a lover’s touches,
the pristine laughter of a child enveloped by
his mother’s arms. Home is no longer the peace
we crave as we wake up every day to hear gunshots
in the air, to see ambulances racing to the scenes
of bomb blasts, police cars swarming the streets
like insects lured by the magic of light.
Because in Borno everybody knows how
to narrate the grim stories of war, how to
describe the head of a man blown by bombs,
how to mourn a child crawling to where
his mother’s corpse lies, waiting for a coffin;
how to pick the fragments of broken walls,
how to grieve whenever war disperses people
to refugee camps, how to mourn the young
bashed by rifles, carted as spoils of war;
how to survive the repetitive sound of grenades,
how to survive the thick fragrance of smoke,
how to pray with tears streaking our faces.
Because war is the only song we hear whenever
people hide under their cupboards, in their
bathrooms, under the beds. Because if death
comes or not my children will still ask
me the time we will leave this country,
the time we will pack our luggage and
say, thank you, city of smoke and bones.

 

Being a Mother In The North

Every day begins with fear:
my daughter’s safety
whenever she goes to the
madrasah, whenever she
attends the masjid to observe
her solats, whenever she
wears hijab to school, to
the streets, to the market,
to the malls, to shops.
Every day begins with
her dreading to leave home,
holding my hand as I sit
on the couch, too sad to
know what to say to her,
what to use to calm her
heart, to assure her of love
and kindness from strange
people, from people around
the world who think the world
could be better without throwing
bullets like firecrackers, without
triggering guns, without strapping
bombs to bodies, without hiding
in the dark to harm, to disrupt,
to annihilate, to shape peace into
horror, into a grave wider than
the sky, into a house filled with
grief, into a wall scarred by
knives, littered by the blurry
pictures of anonymous dead.