James Byrne and Shehzar Doja have been working with Rohingya poets to bring English-language translations of their works to the world, and to create support and hope for the Rohingya people. The anthology of poetry they have edited, I Am A Rohingya, is close to publication. I have seen the manuscript (and my poem below refers to one of the remarkable poems therein) and it is essential, shattering, life-affirming, deeply resistant, and world-altering. It brings overwhelming witness to attempted genocide committed by the Myanmar security forces, while instilling hope for the future of the Rohingya.
In pacifist resistance, I add my voice to the call for help, hope, and a cessation of this unconscionable persecution.
Green ground that was beige yesterday —
beige and red and ochre brown and like
the spores of a puffball — unstable with dry.
Now, green. Overlay. Now leafy while life flumes
in the vascular, as sap reaches out to its ends
to hold that look some call display or arrangement.
My grandmother was an expert dry flower arranger.
Here, hugging the curves of earth, the valley
inclinations, the runnels of saturation sudden
as unusual birds we’ve been seeing here lately.
Sudden, this testament to the variables of water,
sharp edges of fired-down hail, not dropped
as stone to feather, but hurled sharp-edged huge.
To shred bark and leaves and stems and branches.
I cannot use the word ‘shredded’ at the moment
because of the deep pain of a poem by a Rohingya poet
I read the other day in translation — ‘shredded’ because school
is closed off, ethnic cleansing leaving language
searching for references. But there is the dream of the forest,
of home. Between storms, Tracy drove Tim to the school bus
so far from here — 70ks — but reachable, though today
the storm nearly brought them down, closing in hard and fast.
And the shreds of trees around our home — our home
where we shouldn’t be, and the Rohingya poets where they can’t be
and should be, by rights, shreds making this earth look different.