Words by Zahina, 21 WA
The following poem is part of the Rarely Seen, Hardly Heard campaign.
Rarely Seen, Hardly Heard is about shining a light on the stories, thoughts and opinions of young people who have never been published on the WhyNot platform before, helping break down stereotypes and continuing to amplify diverse voices. All young people have a right to speak up and be heard.
The earth remembers the rhythm of the language the people that
Lived on it spoke, sunken through the cracks in the concrete.
Our palms carry the maps we’ve travelled,
Stories written in thick brush strokes along
The deep lines against wrinkled skin.
One touch that can tell the ripeness of fruit and fingertips full of mirth,
Counting prayers on beads.
Languages that speak in calligraphy,
Writes in two forms of split tongue, one in love,
The other rahma (mercy).
Holy scripture passed along jagged mountains over silk roads across saltwater seas,
Sculpting into the sand beneath the groves that mothers walked,
Only for their children’s hands to reach the skies.
Their skin wrapped up in the light of stars,
promising the free lands.
So far away from home,
Home where the sun’s rays shift into smoke,
Slanted roofs pattering with the rhythm of kites.
Home where your name is written in a symphony
That sounds like poetry, without dropping half
Of it because of a foreign tongue.
Home, where the call to prayer echoes
Across the streets, flowing through vendors
That smell of every spice and incense, scaled
With scarves and dates.
Home left behind for a city that paces with dreams,
But slanders your heritage, seeing the
Soil from foreign land as dirt on their shoes, or blood
That runs down a desert-stained canvas, blinking away
From tall arches in the distances and the crescent high above
Home in their minds is nothing more
Then red rivers spilled from the static, drizzling
Off the radio, saying the names of the fallen
in crooked accents because the only time they deserve
to be heard and deserved to be seen with their eyes
is when they hoist and hide behind black flags.
They won’t say the name of Amal Alshteiwi,
Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammed Abu Salha,
And Razan Moahmmed.
Names left on tombstones.
I wonder why I don’t see their faces in newspapers,
Or beneath headlines, why the news anchor
Can’t say it the way it is, tumbling out of their mouths
Like the broken notes of a piano.
Is it because it doesn’t flow like the melodies they’re used too?
An octave too high to hear,
Too hard to swallow.
If only they knew of remedies passed from horizons,
Milk and honey to ease wounds, not everything pinched with spice or every
Skin burnt by fire –
Some shaped the land from sprouted seeds
Carved into farms and moulded without
The help of the high noon sun, spilling yellow light over the tv.
My memory doesn’t match the skies my mother speaks of,
Or the pastel walls and stained-glass threading patterns over
Rugs, like henna.
If only they could see beyond the faded maps
Scrapped beneath the golden lamp, and
Look towards the bonds between each country
Threaded by colour and calligraphy instead
of bullet scraps and broken relics.
Or scarves that shine in one shade,
Wrapped in one way –
That they spangle and stretch like constellations.
Voices spoken with the intonation as loud as the
Crack of fireworks, unafraid of the silence that names them
and tries to diverge faith.
If only they saw beyond the montage
Of scripts, played over screens that look
Like the whole world.
Pitting mines across borders but don’t know
About the dark streets rooted in faith, enough
To mend a broken heart or the greeting that begins with
‘Peace be upon you’, a phrase
Spanning from centuries that still live
In the voices of youth.
Notes and links for articles: –
Prayer beads are called Tasbeh, commonly used while praying in Islam by Muslims.
Article on Chapel Hill Shooting
Illustration by Aileen, You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc