My mother gave birth to me,
among the rice fields secretly.
She wished that I did not cry
when I left her
She wished that I had died.
Her worried eyes foreshadowed the future.
I never understood her
Until that day in 1962
I saw a man that looked just like me
dead, hands tied behind his back, floating in the river.
I ran home in tears,
screaming that if this is what my people do to my people,
then I do not want to be Arakanese.
I do not want to be Burmese.
But I still found myself standing in front of the mirror
bleaching my skin and pulling my eyes further apart
and telling Allah that He will have to forget me for a while
because I do not want to die in the hands of the Burmese military.
The way I look does not please them, so it does not please me.
My mother walked in and wailed when she saw my burning skin.
I never heard her make so much noise, I thought I was doing the right thing.
She told me, “We are Rohingya. We deserve a place here.
Do not change your beauty for the persecutor.”
Homes burnt, birth certificates denied
abuse thrown, our identities hide behind their pride.
Mama and I don’t belong here,
so we join the helpless and help them get us away from Arakan.
We hitch a ride to Bangladesh
The guard says, with his fingers crossed behind his back,
“There’s no room at the inn.”
Mama, I’m sure I saw him grin.
She holds me tight. There’s nothing left for us to do.
Looking right, I see a country I refuse to submit to.
Looking left, I see a country I’m not allowed to belong to.
Looking forward, I see Suu Kyi sugar coating our broken bones.
So all we have left to do is float on this river
hoping that a land will allow us to call her our home.
A land that will see Mama and I grow old.
A poem to highlight the ethnic cleansing happening in Burma right now. A poem that will hopefully spread the word about the struggle of the Rohingyans.