Christchurch, March 15th 2019
I. “Hello, Brother. Welcome,”
Daud Nabi greeted the refugees
from far-flung places in the Middle East
who landed in Christchurch,
but that salutation
also graced the gleaming barrel of the
gun, embossed with the names
of the killer’s heroes —
the same syllables that graced the bullet
which found its everlasting home in his
hospitable chest: hello, brother
bullet. You may be the death of me
but you’ll always have a home
in my heart.
A 71 year old grandfather; an Afghan
seeking refuge from the Soviets.
Daud, you should’ve known that
for a Muslim there is no escaping
the white man’s burden that weighs
so heavily in his rifle cartridges, lined
with the fat of swine
which you must bite through.
Daud, you teach me what it means
to welcome the stranger with arms
open and loaded.
Sir John Cracroft Wilson (1808-1881), an Anglo-Indian civil servant, fell ill in 1853 and migrated to the Antipodes to regain his health. He sailed to New Zealand and settled a hundred hectares of land in a suburb of what is now Christchurch, calling his farm Cashmere in memory of Kashmir. The first Muslims to arrive in New Zealand were his two servants, Wuzeera and Goorden, and their families. He came back to India after two years. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, he saved “more Christian lives than any man in India…at the repeatedly imminent peril of his own life.”
The Christchurch killer in his manifesto answers
the question “Do you believe
that those you attacked were innocent?” with:
“There are no innocents
in an invasion, all those who colonize
other peoples [sic] lands share
guilt.” I wonder if Wilson shared it
when he settled a hundred hectares
of Maori land and made it his own
Kashmiri paradise. Was this the omen
we needed to know Kashmir as the land
of massacre it would eventually become?
I wonder if it ever crossed the killer’s mind
how he and his ilk invade and conflate
lands like so many ballots in a basket.
I wonder if he realized among the dead
could have been the descendants of those
Muslims who helped Wilson
build his utopia on pilfered earth.
I wonder if it would have made any difference.
“Members of a New Zealand biker gang have performed the haka to honour the victims of the mass shootings in Christchurch.”
—The Guardian, Sunday March 17th 2019
Maori men, they are clad in black
t-shirts and denim vests sewn with circular
Their dance is a war
dance: each guttural chant each staccato slap of the fist
on the elbow – a dirge a challenge.
They know what it is to be erased.
They choreograph their survival but also that of those
who are in their debt, of those
who came to their island’s sanctuary, fleeing history
that their hosts live every day as outlaws.
Bassam Sidiki is a writer, critic, and scholar from Pakistan, and currently a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Michigan. His essays, poems, and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in Hyphen, The Iowa Review, The Bangalore Review, Jaggery, Papercuts, and The Aleph Review, Pakistan’s premier annual literary anthology. He has received honorable mentions for the Ora Mary Phelam Poetry Prize and the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Find his work at bassamsidiki.com and tweets @Bassidiki