songs of the motherland are parakeets in a cage

on her rooftops boys and girls
                          fly kites
one time he said men will use
kite strings to decapitate other men
                         riding motorcycles

no, you’re fucking with me        but it is
possible invisible strings can slice clean
somebody’s head          i’ve seen it with my own
the day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated
and nana said                              don’t even leave one step
                                                  off the lawn you’ll be mowed down

the men rolled burning tires
to prove justice    is a wheel on fire
bony arms of apes                      flinging democracy
                                                 the kites still fly when leaders die
children sell overfilled red balloons
           donkeys’ backs ripple like leathery oceans
                       sun-kissed, foam evaporated           they bray
blue, the parakeet nana cupped in his hand and smiled at
             as if birds know only                    that sinful language
blue, the dog’s chain                   by the guava tree          stoic in the sun
blue, the moon’s arrival   the wheel that measures every feast and fast
blue, leech in the mud puddle                 waiting for blood
mamoon reversed the car                                         out of the mob
                                     there were distinct gunshots
maybe other loud noises                pops of civil unrest maybe balloons
maybe oxen whipped                     maybe the body wrapped green-gold
in the sewer outside the city’s only hospital
             isn’t dead
green currency               gold bricks        is this the beggar’s cloth
everybody’s ripping                                                                       to shreds
                                     and i’m guilty, my family used to
rolling blackouts / failed generators / cold water for washing before weddings
                                     they read books by the light of a candle
i’ve lost the meaning of fire
           heat is a magic trick, turn the chrome knob
time need not boil          time a privilege              remember when
the petroleum stations shut down           the doctors went home
no one dared trade paan or ice cream                              she was assassinated
the people marched                   outsiders would think it was all about destruction
                                                outsiders think Pakistan shelters headless apes
we know better, songs
of our land are parakeets in a cage
                                                                they need teeth to fly
                                                                children laugh at anything



Alia Hussain Vancrown

Alia Hussain Vancrown has published in journals and magazines in print and online. Her poetry has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was selected to participate in Winter Tangerine's 2018 workshop, Singing Songs Crooning Comets, featuring seminars by Kaveh Akbar and Aricka Foreman. Alia works at the Library of Congress in the Law Division. She currently resides in Maryland. For more, please visit and Instagram @aliagoestothelibrary. Alia recommends her late cousin's scholarship fund: The Daanish Khan Memorial Scholarship.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, July 2, 2018 - 10:57