A poem about the alienation of people in a country that claims to welcome them with open arms.
Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia
From the window of the old storage room,
leaning over the broken handle of the broom,
in their red robes we watched them return,
our prying eyes hidden behind the fern.
From the blue bin beside the locked chest,
we stole unshelled pecans as a form of unrest,
as we wondered aloud with our tired jaws,
how they ended up there for their cause.
Oh but the endless questions we asked:
What is it with which they were tasked?
If we spoke to them would they understand?
Can they speak the tongue of our divided land?
Where did all the hair from their heads go?
Why do they speak in hushed tones so low?
Why didn’t they have a country of their own?
Who sent them here to our cold, quiet zone?
Why did they raise slogans in the street?
Why couldn’t their kids come and meet?
Why could we rent them part of our home,
but were forbidden from calling their phone?
And when our mother came looking for us,
to rescue us from the trappings of dusk,
we pretended the locked chest was our mission,
as if we weren’t just spying on living friction.
At dinner we listened to our parents talk,
and even in sympathy they would mock,
these people torn apart by a strange war,
hoping they wouldn’t steal our old car.
As we grew tall and bright, we learnt,
how their leaders had themselves burnt,
how they fought for justice and freedom,
while we stole forbidden nuts from a drum.
The years passed and away we went,
our world, for us, a big welcoming tent,
where we could roam our lands so free,
our skin no barrier to what we could be.
The people we once hid and watched,
in their lands continued to be torched,
as the ways of the world became clear,
we learnt everyone’s life wasn’t so dear.
Some were into our world so gently brought,
to be kept away from our children and thought,
and while we opened to them our doors,
we relegated to them only our dirty floors.
Decades later when back home we came,
from the storage room we looked at our shame,
the ferns and trees had all but disappeared,
as had the men we had once so feared.
Gone to live among their own kind,
in sight but never welcome in our mind.
Our mother pointed at the box with the locked lid,
and asked if we had ever learnt what inside it hid,
but all we knew was that we had killed the tree,
and sent away the man called refugee.
This land we owned we gave him only on rent,
and he understood what that affront meant,
by birth some were destined for painful history,
inside locked boxes doesn’t always lie the mystery.