Wednesday, April 27, 2016


for Xulhaz Mannan. RIP.

In January, I wandered the banks of the Buriganga in Old Dhaka with an outspoken Bangladeshi friend. The water was black & foul & black, yet somehow, still full of life — boatmen, diving birds & concentric ripples where fishing line drops into the murk. My friend told me that atheist bloggers & academics were being hacked to death in Bangladesh. “That’s tragic,” I said lamely. Looking out over the water, to where a ship was being slowly dismantled, he said, “you have no idea.” You have no idea — a simple, common, off-handed phrase. He was right, of course. No idea about the country I was visiting for only four days, no idea about concentric circles inscribed in blood, and today, no idea how another young, beautiful person could be taken so brutally, so needlessly. A young, beautiful person like so many others I met there, hurling poetry against the silence. I tried to write to another friend in Dhaka after I read the news: Sorry, this page is unavailable. The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed…

The eye protects itself by closing the lid.

I closed the tab about Xulhaz Mannan & saw an email from my mother. In it, she said, “this morning I saw two crows feasting on the body of a lovely pink & green parrot.”

Driving back from Old Dhaka that day, through the infamous traffic, & my friend & I were silent. The traffic was a maestro, conducting songs in the key of road rage, turning time into an accordion, where a ten minute journey stretches into an hour then suddenly collapses again. In those unfinished streets, I saw a woman pulling aside her veil to spit, a bearded man grinning into a mobile phone, a boy listening to music on the back of a trishaw, & finally, running through the gridlock, a boy holding onto a cluster of multicoloured balloons, the strings so taut it was like they were going to lift him off the ground & carry him to heaven.

Metaphors are metaphors, life is life, blood is silence. Metaphors seem futile in times like this. Perhaps because it feels as if they’re all we have.

This world is too much, sometimes. Or maybe far too little.