The revolution in my blood.
I only asked my mother about the war once.
She said our freedom was a woven basket
of limbs, machetes, blood caked salwars, monsoon mud, and curfews.
She said she couldn’t remember.
She was 21 when Bangladesh became its own.
The war came on the hennaed heels of her sister’s wedding.
My aunt was 19, a tearstained bride.
Her new husband, 35 and greying,
worked in Pakistan…
My grandfather held the guilt of their arranged marriage
like stones in his pockets until he died.
From gardenias and gold bangles,
came the rain of gunfire, castration, rape, bombs,
guerrilla leagues, and military might.
The stench of freedom.
they buried their bodies,
At least this is what I imagine.
The history books in this country concoct truths.
I learned 1971 from a white man who preached that democracy and Islam
were venom at each others’ mouths.
I called him professor.
My uncle prays five times a day in Brooklyn.
He always voted in Bangladesh.
Depending on who you ask or what you read, 3 million or 25,000 people died.
We cannot count their ashes.
I do not know the war that lives in my body.
I do not know the murder my mother survived.
I am afraid to ask for answers.
I am afraid they will cost her too much
this autopsy of carcasses inside her,
this excavation of our shared bones.
She raised me alone.
Built a ladder in her spine for me.
Told me always to look ahead.
What will she lose if I make her turn around?
Your voice, an echo in womb water,
the tiniest of toes
to your syllables.
I knew the words,
What language lived in you
as you moved through the world,
Could I taste the sticky sweet of accent?
Could I feel the beating
when they asked you again,
Where are you from?
If English is not yours,
why does it feel so safe
in my mouth?
Aurora Masum-Javed is an artist, educator, activist, performer, and writer. She has performed original work with DivaFest, Siren Project, APAture, West Side Stories, Poetry Across Borders, Solo Performance Workshop, and the Empowering Women of Color Conference. She is also a graduate of the Callaloo Writing Workshop. After spending six years teaching, she is now pursuing an MFA in poetry at Cornell. Through all of her art, Aurora strives to create work that is both healing and political.