Poem

Omar Sakr
Diary of a Non-Essential Worker

Did you know violins can shake the earth? Such sweet vessels, tiny planetary throats. I was sent an orchestra. They made music, a sorrow, a soaring, that shivered the dirt. I followed the notes to a barbarism. The composer said he created the beautiful hour as a space to think about war, and I heard my mother’s name, a dark cascade of her, I saw again the clamour behind her manner, her harrowed glamour; I am claiming all of it now not as a violence, but as an inevitability, always justifiable. I guess I don’t want to lose her, no matter the bruises. I haven’t seen her in weeks, a memory of cherries, a perishable delight. I stay home, she stays home, and with this distance we become old battlefields, able to appreciate our damages without adding to them. How lucky we are to have homes. How likely it is we will lose them. Months ago we couldn’t breathe and smoky miracles pulverised the sky, our fussy lungs. Everything is a miracle when you are alive. I am learning that against my will. Today I was sent a pink dwarf kingfisher, a bird thought extinct for over a century, and still, it was someone’s job to look for her, someone waited, camera in hand, for a glimpse of a glorious beak. Outside, I hear the camaraderie of ordinary wings, the chatter of birds we call pests. They don’t seem to mind the lockdown. I dare say they are having fun, a lark. I call my landlord, ask for a reprieve, and hear only birdsong. He’s having fun. I walk out into the park, where, months ago, a man was stabbed near to death; I sit on the bench close to the stain his blood left and receive a text reminding me to care about Kashmir, and Gaza, and our Uygur brothers and sisters, who I never stopped caring about, and for whom my care did nothing. Forgive me, I sometimes mistake grief for care. The orchestra follows me under the foliage, the violins unrelenting, the world shaken to their curvature, their high-strung demands, as I sift through the scattered lyric of my shattered life to find a way to love a woman, and the birds weave and whirl in the green, laughing at this non-essential work.

Omar Sakr
is a poet and writer. He is the author of the collections These Wild Houses and The Lost Arabs, as well as the forthcoming novel White Flu.

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