P for Peshawar

Author’s Note:  Poem based on December 16th 2014, Peshawar Massacre


If the news was running on BBC, I knew it had to be huge
since people – children – died or were threatened on regular
basis here; taking me back to my time working at a School,
remembering the morning drills (or ironies) teaching them
white faces about discipline, morals and the importance of
conduct – keeping the tie in place, calling home for forgotten
books, stationery or even mismatched socks; filing them
as a ‘case’ or inking diaries with a red that blotched not just
their pages but probably ‘future’ forever…the irony of ‘forever’
using the word as a threat to congeal a child to our rules
of order and standards. The morning assemblies chanting
the country’s anthem and school song, reminding students
never to personalize God by saying ‘my God’ as blatant
disrespect to other ethnicities – since God is one. But it wasn’t
the first time our school had received threats of attacks.
We had snipers promptly installed on the roofs of our school
extra cameras, security at the gates, patrol cars skimming the periphery –
children with excited faces at the sight of such activity
since they presumed holidays from an approaching unrest –
remembering how a student made a far-fetched story
about army officers raiding the school building, vacating
students file by file, sirens blaring out loud, a hysterical mother
blaring her chords over the school’s phone only to finally discern
after an ‘investigation’ that the child staged merely to miss
the class test scheduled for the next day. My mind landing back
to Peshawar and the remains of their school scampering slide by slide
across the TV screen; but what would I know since I haven’t
children of my own, my mind going back again to teachers
minting their words with ‘politically correct statements’
unless an emotion indicts them for overstepping the mind of a child,
a parent that would still call up school and blame them
for mediocre arrangements, or too many guns in the hands
of guards by the school gates, or feeding their children ideas
about death not compatible to their ‘belief systems’; of all the training
and sculpting for a ‘brighter future’ become invalid against a thumb
and a trigger. The neighbours in my building keeping their tellies shut,
keeping their children focused on due semester exams
for a future still in their hands. The weather outside turning timid,
the clouds aberrantly rolling in; perhaps, this is why
we’re teaching English and Math at our schools,
with supreme emphasis, enforcing rigid curriculums,
so our children, on a given day, are able to read
death lists and count bodies.

Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her works appear in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Arabic, Polish Italian, Albanian and Persian. More about her can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com Read other articles by SheikhaA, or visit SheikhaA's website.