children pray for gray days/collateral damage #1

for Zubair and Nabeela in North Waziristan

bright blue skies
bring out the flying toys
from lands far away
to play   to score
points by turning
homes into rubble
weddings into funerals
children into ancestors

a boy barely a teen witnesses
his grandmother transform
into million red flowers and
scatter across the smoke-filled
garden as fragments of metal
lodge above his knee
reminding him to pray
for gray days

echoed by his sister
and children across Pakistan
in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia
children with futures
held hostage by buttons pressed
in windowless rooms in Las Vegas
imprisoned by the forever
wars of terror

the children
they pray for gray days
so that they can go out and play


Artist’s Statement

During my childhood in Nepal, dark clouds were harbingers of monsoon rains. As an adult in the US, overcast skies induced nostalgia. But gray days took on a different meaning for me when I heard Zubair, a 13-year old Pakistani boy, testify in the U.S. Congress in 2013: “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.” A year earlier, he had been injured along with his younger sister, Nabeela, by a U.S. drone attack that killed their grandmother. The words refused to leave me since I first heard them, and resurfaced with each news about drone attacks and other war crimes. Writing this poem got me thinking more about the indiscriminate violence of wars and the complicity of my silence, pushing me to further explore the idea of “collateral damage.”

Luna Ranjit writes across and between boundaries of personal and political, state and society, US and Nepal, poetry and prose. She mostly writes prose, and only recently started writing poetry. Her poems have been published in Newtown Literary and Koseli, and is forthcoming in the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s folio, A World Without Cages.