25 June 2022
#WeekendReads

Poem: Collateral Damage

The shootouts at schools...the attacks at the places of worship... should have never happened...

Collateral damage
Collateral damage Getty Images

The azaleas and cotton flowers are blooming again,
their crimson mirrored on the pavements
and roads and school halls and libraries
and rooftops and warehouses and restaurants
and grocery stores and temples and churches 
and mosques and gurudwaras around the world.

It should have never happened.
The warehouse, where they worked 
at their first jobs, saving for children, 
and college and weddings, where the fire 
imprisoned them in the narrow passage 
with that single, blocked exit while they
called their parents and neighbours to save them? 

 

The azaleas and cotton flowers are blooming again...
The azaleas and cotton flowers are blooming again... Getty Images

It should have never happened.
The shootouts at schools while they called 
their friends and mothers and fathers, 
begging to be saved, locked inside a room, 
hid under desks, shielded by other bodies, 
smeared with their friends’ blood?

It should have never happened.
The attacks at the places of worship
where they came together, 
where they were barricaded 
and cursed and told to go back 
where they came from, 
while they begged for mercy?

It should have never happened.
The flaming pyres and coffined forests
and cemeteries of those who died, 
gasping for breath, scavenging 
for hospital beds, isolating 
from everything familiar, 
video-calling their last moments, 
while the Neros kept fiddling?
It should have never happened.

(Jonaki Ray was educated as a scientist, worked as a software engineer (briefly), and is now a poet, writer, and editor. Her poetry collection, Firefly Memories, is forthcoming from Copper Coin later this year.)