Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tishani Doshi: "The Immigrant's Song"

Let us not speak of those days
when coffee beans filled the morning
with hope, when our mothers' headscarves
hung like white flags on washing lines.
Let us not speak of the long arms of sky
that used to cradle us at dusk.
And the baobabs—let us not trace
the shape of their leaves in our dreams,
or yearn for the noise of those nameless birds
that sang and died in the church's eaves.
Let us not speak of men,
stolen from their beds at night.
Let us not say the word
Let us not remember the first smell of rain.
Instead, let us speak of our lives now—
the gates and bridges and stores.
And when we break bread
in cafés and at kitchen tables
with our new brothers,
let us not burden them with stories
of war or abandonment.
Let us not name our old friends
who are unravelling like fairy tales
in the forests of the dead.
Naming them will not bring them back.
Let us stay here, and wait for the future
to arrive, for grandchildren to speak
in forked tongues about the country
we once came from.
Tell us about it, they might ask.
And you might consider telling them
of the sky and the coffee beans,
the small white houses and dusty streets.
You might set your memory afloat
like a paper boat down a river.
You might pray that the paper
whispers your story to the water,
that the water sings it to the trees,
that the trees howl and howl
it to the leaves. If you keep still
and do not speak, you might hear
your whole life fill the world
until the wind is the only word.

"The Immigrant's Song" by Tishani Doshi, from Everything Begins Elsewhere: Poems. © HarperCollins Publishers India, 2012.

Photography credit: Detail from "Origami paper boat sailing on water causing waves and ripples," by ifong (originally color).


  1. I absolutely love this poem! I had it for my English unseen Cambridge IGSCE exam today : )

  2. I'm reading this as the news is full of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian attack on their homes and others ask (rhetorically) why some refugees are welcomed with open arms while others are not. Thank you for this voice.


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