“Feathertip” Poem by Afeed Areifiz

Image by Mormei Zanke


Poem by Afeed Areifiz

I’ve written about “my people” before

and then I’ve heard them call back “your people?”

Who now gave you our voices? You lived in a home

made of foreign paper with foreign walls.

Your sweet nothings are whispered

in words that took the infant letters from our language

Your poetry wears the skin we were taught to fear.

aren’t you a privileged, little songbird?

Even if your courage to write is as expansive as the ocean that divides

your pen from our blood; your voice from our nation.

Even if you can imagine half the reality you did not see, and the other half

you sculpted out of this

Black — Marble.

You cannot be one of us.


I have a fear of good words losing themselves in our

Languages. We choose to make our lifetimes last

in the most convenient of voices.

My people will say I am fallen

because where Bangla is

the fires of our martyrs, we who weave

ink to taste of spice, and saffron and family

to dance between blades of golden rice,

and our hands, run, through coarse jute kisses

our voices: proud and strong and many.


In English we find our tongues heeled and

our forefathers mute. Our gold as pyrite:

judged hollow.


I hear them say:

“Songbird, you are as different,

as the ink wetting your fingers — from us

you are foreign. When we

slaved and sweat and stirred restless

where were you?

When our teeth quivered and our throats

were parched from their dry, lifeless words,

why did you sing for them? When we bled, which hallowed branch

led you to stray to us, to drink?”


And can anyone say that they

were just afraid

then and now.

that, among their people, they are the mute

who barely holds on to the songs

their grandparents whispered them to sleep.

Their clipped wings wrote their stories — dared

songbirds to flight.


When you slaved, I watched,

when you gasped for water, I drank our red sunsets.

and now when I sing I use their words,

but your ink — their voices, and your songs. Their lips for us to sip.

Now when I stray, I stray onto your hands.

Let them run over coarse, muddied feathers.

I choose to make my people’s lifetimes last,

In the voice I have chosen.