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Litany for the Homeless Hornbill’s Mother

Shah Tazrian Ashrafi

This poem first appeared in The Aleph Review, Vol. 4 (2020).

My mother’s leopards,

Her elephants,

Her trees, her creeks,

My mother’s deer,

Her waterfalls, her springs,

My mother’s skin spun out of earth,

Her rocks, her boulders,

My mother’s birds,

Her gibbons, her monkeys,

My mother’s sloth bears,

Her Rhinos, her wolves—

All have been plucked out of her garden.

Her garden

Watered by the tropical monsoon

That rises from the palms of Bay of Bengal

Her garden

Dried by the northern winds

That smell of pines

Her garden

Blessed by the undisturbed sunlight

God, have they been plucked out

And thrown into the cities

To be crushed under their metal tires,

Snapped in halves by their concrete hands,

Chewed by their Iron teeth

Fried by their sizzling palms of steel

To be boxed inside their skyscraper heads

To seep into their concrete skin

To lie stunned on their asphalts

To roam their landfills like ghosts of the past

To decorate their roads, their museums

To vanish into their dusty air

To mobilise their fast wheels—





The Clan by Sara Khan (watercolour and collage on paper, 2017)


Shah Tazrian Ashrafi currently resides in Dhaka and writes for The Daily Star, Bangladesh’s largest English newspaper. His works have appeared in various supplements of The Daily Star, The Metaworker, Kitaab, Monsoon Letters, and Daily Times (Pakistan). He is an avid follower of South Asian literature. He can often be spotted fanboying over Arundhati Roy and speaking about leopards.

About the featured artist: Sara Khan was born in Birmingham, England, and raised in Lahore. She holds a BFA (with honours) from the National College of Arts, Lahore. Her works have been featured in several national and international group exhibitions. She was selected as one amongst 13 international artists for the Bag Art Camp, an international art residency in Bergen, Norway. She was also selected to be a part of the 13 Satellites of Lahore, a public art workshop held at the Annemarie Schimmel Haus, Lahore. She lives and works in Vancouver, Canada.


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