It takes a lot of confidence to be this ridiculous.
A lot has happened this week.
I spent my weekend trying to gather my thoughts and put together an article that would summarise everything in my head, all the conversations I have had, and everything I have read and seen online, in the news, and on social media. The main thing I noticed in the dialogue was the lack of empathy being shown. Empathy and understanding that there are many, many victims of extremism. And we must mourn with and for them too.
Instead of an article, I ended up penning a poem. It was an exercise in empathy and the results of trying very hard to put myself in one person’s possible shoes. I speak for nobody but myself though. I do not claim that any of the feelings expressed are necessarily accurate or reflective of how any person in the Muslim community in France, and worldwide, is feeling right now… feeling today. But I very much digested the thoughts expressed by my Muslim friends and acquaintances on Facebook, Twitter, and people who spoke out on TV and in the media. I also thought deeply about a few things a good friend of mine, who lives in France, said. Since the attacks earlier this week I ask her daily if she is okay, especially as a woman of colour. When barbaric acts of hatred happen, it opens a can of worms and gives some room for ignorance to speak and show itself with some sort of legitimacy, and some sort of grounding. At times like this, we must trust in tolerance more than ever and tell ourselves that there is ultimately more good in the world than there is bad.
I’ve noticed that a powerful line, or one powerful word I or someone else says or uses can give me a seed from which to write from the heart.
Today I asked my friend in France how she was. Her response was chilling: ‘The psychosis is at an all time high.’
And with that, this poem was born.
(I don’t usually offer disclaimers or explanations for what I create, but I did feel it was necessary this time. I would also like to extend words of peace and condolence to the families of those who have been killed and say that my thoughts have been with them all week and will continue to be. As a journalist and writer, my pencil was also broken as was my heart. Nobody should ever die in such a way. I also remember the two police officers who were also killed and the various members of staff. I also remember those killed in Baga, Nigeria this week too.)
I hope whatever you take away from this poem includes the desire to show empathy. There is rarely enough of it in this part of the world.
The psychosis is at 110 per cent
Looking to increase disproportionately
At unfathomable increments
As we keep a very close eye on the news
I remind myself that I have to watch my back
As if life isn’t hard enough
Anxiety levels are now at 96.5 per cent, Houston
And I think we have a problem
I can’t take it anymore
Father and brother are in the bathroom shaving their beards and all their facial hair
Mother has decided she can’t wear her hijab anymore
Not for a while
And we are all apologetic
Even though it’s not our fault
My suicidal thoughts creep back
Where is home now?
I’ve lost my tongue
French and English do not want me
Je Suis Perdue
And I don’t understand
Why the touch of a hand
Makes me jump out of my skin
Friday prayer will consist of blood and terror
Blood coming out of my mouth
And choking my throat
They are all looking at me
Looking at us
I’m scared to utter Allahu Akbar
Because I’m not sure how much I believe it anymore
The psychosis is at 129 per cent
And my anxiety is killing me
Keeping a close eye on the news is crushing my sanity
We sit in silence at the dinner table
And then my father cries
And I hear God say
‘Not in my name’
Thoughts attack each other in the confines of my skull
Causing headaches and migraines
And my naked head does not know what to do
Strands of hair falling on my face
This situation is always brand new
No matter how many times it happens
My mother has slapped my brother before
She said she saw it in his eyes
He wants to join those men in Syria
Because they understand
But she slapped it right out of him for now
Haram haram for our family
Should he stray from our community, the Umma in this way
And as I rest my bones
And close my eyes and try to fall asleep
These raging sweet dreams and beautiful nightmares are where I keep my silence
Until I can make sense of it all.
The psychosis is at an all time high
Drunk on fear and sadness
Trying to stay alive.
by Siana Bangura. ©