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UNICEF Says Children in Gaza do not Have the Energy to Cry

They make desolation and call it peace.

— Agha Shahid Ali

When the baby peers into the world,

The nurses pat the back, when a cry bursts

they confirm a sign of life.

My role, a fledgling older sister, was to cradle gently,

swaying like a breeze through young dreams,

as Baby Dona cried. I put the little bottle

of baby formula milk,

luke warm as the early rising sun,

hushing her yowling into oblivion.

At five years old, I had yet to grasp the concept

that silence wasn’t always a sign of peace.

Yesterday UNICEF declared that children in Gaza

do not have the energy to cry,

drained of vigour, lay in quietude,

not even whispers escaping their lips.

In the wards. In the graves. In the wreck.

One of the mothers looked at the silent bodies

of both her children before their burial,

“Cover them,” she whispered. “They are feeling cold.”

She then requests to be buried with them,

wondering, “What if they don’t find

me as their eyes open and begin to cry?"

The Boatman and the River

  1.  As the boatman’s hands gripped the oars, his eyes scanned the stagnant river with a sense of urgency. He, a lone boatman, plied his craft upstream in the murky waters. He sang of the people in his village, who had cleaved their tongues with freshly honed scythes. The metal passed through the cerise pulpit dorsum of the tongue. He looked at the charcoal sky and wondered how light traveled faster than sound.
  2. With each stroke of his oar, he attempts to break the stagnant grip that holds the river captive, as if he is finding a pulse on the neck of the lifeless form of the waterway. Yet, despite his efforts, the currents remain listless, refusing to yield to his fervent plea for movement.
  3. He beseeches his fellow boatmen, entrenched upon crimson-tinted sands, to acknowledge the stagnation that succumbs their once running waters. But their voices do not echo his lamentations, leaving him to confront the desolation alone.
  4. No matter the vigor with which he propelled his vessel forward, his endeavors were thwarted by the apathy of the colossal vessels that dominated the river's flow, deflecting his humble craft into oblivion. So, he makes an effort to look for a way, between the throngs of the bloated, drifting bodies that become makeshift rafts, trailing behind the leader vessel like a somber cavalry.
  5. In the silence of the river's sleep, the boatman's voice rose in a quiet song—fervent pleas for the river to rouse from its torpor. The solitary voice of the drifting corpse whispered a grim truth, “They stole my life to pour in their lifeless stone, yet my existence and the beat of my heart was known when we both sank, but only I resurfaced, alone.”

Zufishan Rahman is a twenty-five-year-old student and poet based in Chennai. Her works have been previously published in nether Quarterly, Aainanagar Magazine, Maktoob Media, Live Wire and The Blahcksheep.

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