Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan| Shipwreck

I see it with my eyes
it registers in my mind
and then
the feeling
of heaviness
dives deep down my throat
sinks through my lungs
and comes to
rest
shipwrecked on my heart.


’12 dead in gun attack’
‘new bomb threat’
‘Sidney siege’
‘Boston marathon’
‘woman arrested’
‘six men charged’
Muslim.
Muslim.
Muslim.


The shipwreck
thrusts itself
deeper down inside me
smashing
into my stomach.


And this is so wrong.
For this is before
I register the tragedy.
Before I absorb
the names,
the faces.


This is the weight instead of
guilt by association.
No. That’s wrong, not guilt,
fear.
And not association but
distant, disconnected affiliation.


A horrible mixture of anger, shame, regret,
determination not to make a condemnation into an apology for my personhood,
resentment that they dared call themselves the same as me.
This jumble of despair that sits on my heart,
this weight,
is from a mere word.


A word I dread to hear in these contexts,
but a word to which I associate
and yet have only some control over.


The others
countless others
all have some control
over the word too
and yet
it is always the loudest, who the mic will pick up.


You cannot seem to create meaning
through smiles,
or jokes,
or cups of tea.
Through working long hours,
or feeding your kids.


You can’t seem to make meaning
through being a neighbour,
a schoolfriend,
a teacher,
the postman,
the doctor,
the parent,
even the victim.


Your claim to the word,
is not really noted if you only
work the till
or baby sit on the weekends,
or shop online,
take walks in the park,
pay off your mortgage
or miss the last bus home.


Instead, meaning is controlled
through bangs and blood.
Through black, yellow, red,
a scream and a thud.


This weight is not made by the many.
The shipwreck is caused by the few.
And yet all of us,
everyone on board,
feels like they’re drowning.

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