the day war came

the day war came 
i folded 
into a million pieces

took up arms 
to defend her homeland

becoming the sorrow 
found in every note 
in a playlist 
awaiting the apocalypse 

the day war came 
i folded 
into a million pieces

becoming the rage 
found in every immigrant 
whose motherland was once

 and pillaged 

by foreign policy 

in places where
mud is fertile 
enough to fetishize
the glow of dark skin 

dancing at the threshold
of orientalism 
and military occupation 

western imperialism 
rearing its 
ugly head 

now tell stories 
littered with double standards
in the grips of lessons 

to the psyches 
of my 

notice the silence 
between sentences
and in long gazes

it’s full of answers,
hear the breaking of clouds 
before the thunder 

notice the pretense 
in words
something hopeful 
or patriotic

certain struggles 
are worthy of fanfare 
and heroism

these are the hands 
that carry 
a new world order 
into clear skies 

the same hands
that lift ashes into mouths 
used to being fed
lies and conspiracies 

i was 7 when 

growing up,
words like terrorist 
and uncivilized 

sprang across screens
in every home
as america waged 
her holy wars  

on foreign lands
and peoples 
felt deserving of death
and destruction

while the earth slept,
we traveled 

traversing makeshift borders:
into damascus 
the west bank  

over the entrails of

transgressing boundaries:
into the belly of 

the cradle of 
the world’s civilization 

call us what we carry 
inheriting the war 
and traumas 

that crossed a bridge 
as it trembled 
and drowned us at sea

holding skeletons
and secrets
i would never say
but would rather sing 

gaze at the ocean
in search of home

eat salt
learning to breathe
in luminous waters 

be warned 
the ticket to safety 
will be your proximity to whiteness 

the tabloids say
this tidal wave of migrants
is different,
this time 

they are clean,
middle-class folk 

don’t worry
they are not from 
the middle east

not black or brown 
dirty or violent 
and certainly not,

they will not steal your jobs
or raid your homes 
they are
just. like. us. 

looks like 

strapping a bomb
to your chest
and declaring your kinsman:


he died for 
his country 

looks different depending on 
where you come from 

what you look like
who you worship 

allies of the world 
welcome boycott
and sanctions 

against the sworn enemy
sending their troops
and missiles 
and well wishes

but none for saigon 
cape town 
or the ira  

the day war came 
pleas of scorched suns
summoned omens 
of sacred covenants 

rupturing treaties 
and two-state solutions 

whatever happened 
to the dead and 
their portraits?

one of these days 
when lilacs bloom 
between cracks of doorways 
and regimes 

i will unlock the cage
for all to witness 
soothe wings that take off 
into radioactive turmoil 

bones will crow
but at least,
what you have heard 
is true 

we are coming 
to take back what is 
rightfully ours

and we’ll rise in the sky 
at last. 

mar 2022 

streets & sidewalks

memorial honouring the killing of the afzaal family at the crime scene in london, ontario (photography by ian willms)

i’ve walked these streets
a million times before
these sidewalks 
house cracks so deep

they break the backs of mothers
who worry about their sons
every time they exit the front door

send them off
into battlefields
drafted for a war
they did not ask for 

little boys with beautiful brown skin
blossom into men 
with beards 
labelled terrorist 

i’ve walked these streets
with my mother in arm
a million times before 

her crown 
call it her hijab 
adorns the profile of her face
bold and dazzling as she

these sidewalks 
house cracks so deep

i step over them 
to show her that we too deserve 
to land on solid ground 

grew accustomed to 
the disregard 
for the way you 
take up space

and memorized 
glares and scowls 
like the back of my hand 
from menacing eyes 

that take aim 
darting pellets
like target practice 

i walk these streets 
and my body seizes up 
with every passing vehicle 

i walk these streets
and wonder about the 9 year old child
orphaned into nightmare

i walk these streets 
and wonder about
how that could have been me

wonder about 
how that could have easily
been us

these sidewalks 
house cracks so deep
they do not falter

inside these four walls 
where grief has made a home 
i am reminded that our faith


does not falter
and resolute as we are 

i will continue to walk these streets
a million more times 
until these sidewalks 
graciously absorb my every step

i will continue to walk these streets 
with arms spread wide 
and take up the space 
i’ve always deserved 

i will continue to walk these streets
until these sidewalks 

house dandelions that bloom 
from between 

bright and yellow

they greet me 
with signs of the seasons

change is not only coming 
it’s already on its way. 

for fayez afzaal 

june 2021

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