The Displaced Children of Displaced Children by Faisal Mohyuddin
Eyewear Publishing, 2018. 88 pages.
Reviewed by DM O’Connor
How can the human heart, without ripping apart at the seams,
Ever house the immeasurable heartache of one’s own history?
THE FACES OF THE HOLY
The wisdom and heart in Faisal Mohyuddin’s award-winning debut collection, The Displaced Children of Displaced Children, puts the current racial rhetoric of migration to shame. The division of us and them by politics, economics, and media coverage is a thin mask for fear-mongering, which Mohyuddin rightly calls monstering. With craft and courage, his poems take the spit of racism, the genocide of nationalism, and the cruelty of thy neighbor and compose redemption songs. From tiny quotidian moments, like the contemplation of a forgotten banana in a classroom or the blooming of a zinnia, to life-altering events such as the partition of Pakistan or a suicide committed in protest, The Displaced Children of Displaced Children weaves migration and family into a prayer of hope for future generations.
This collection is perfectly balanced in both form and content. In “THE OPENING,” an interview between a father and son in verse, the son asks, “what should I say/ to my son, when I too become a father,” and the father responds:
Tell him more
about the hours of your life
so his hunger is not as desperate
nor as bottomless
After this intention for the collection is clearly set, the reader is thrown into the “wake of the Partition.” Lines like; “Exile begins where rivers end,” “I taste lost time,” and “Yet I pray for forgetfulness, here” are buoys amidst visceral massacre: “decapitated heads, amputated arms, severed legs flew.” All the while, Mohyuddin is attempting “to heal the unhealable anguish of others” like any good son or father.
The long poem “DENATURALIZATION: AN ELEGY FOR MR. VAISHNO DAS BAGI, AN AMERICAN,” dramatizes a suicide note, committed in protest to the 1923 Supreme Court ruling which revoked the citizenship of “all Asiatics.” This systematic racism is as American as apple pie and baseball and must never be forgotten. The condemnation of religious fanatics and the vilification of Muslims by the media is brought to the forefront in “IN DEFENSE OF MONSTERS” which enlightens the full story of a front-page photo, taken out of context, of a burka-clad woman taking on a cellphone crossing Westminster Bridge after a terrorist attack in March 2017. After helping victims, she was calling her family to report she was fine. Even the photographer spoke in her defense despite the fact that the image, used as propaganda to sell papers and push racist policy was already yesterday’s news; damage done. Yet, couplets, still chase hope:
to the monsters in their blood. Let any monster any explosive word
we might utter in protest, or in compassion, or in self-
healing, until it’s a silence angel—don’t you understand yet? —
when they’ve already monstered us beyond recognition,
we might as well just swallow the pain of being monstered,
help some old lady across the street, away from the destruction,
do that instead of fighting back, then plunge into the obliterating
rush of the subway.
Mohyuddin uses the full arsenal of a poet: ghazal, sonnet, elegy, free verse, even acrostics, to face and witness our current and past tragedies, both personal and political. Evoking Rumi, Whitman, Iqbal, Ibn Sarah, these poems are layered and polished—flawless and breaking down
Regardless of language or country, the triumph of The Displaced Children of Displaced Children is that it tells a universal truth, a truth often muted to sell, or hoodwink, or win votes. Mohyuddin’s is a truth that needs daily reiteration: the movement of people is as perpetual and unstoppable as a river.
what can it do when blood’s trajectory
has forever been about becoming another river, about winding its way
along some other pathway toward survival? How else
could I have come to be…
SONG OF MYSELF AS A TOMORROW
DAVID MORGAN O'CONNOR is from a small Canadian village on Lake Huron. After many nomadic years, he's based in Albuquerque, where stories and poems progress daily. His writing has appeared in more than 50 print or online publications. He reviews, interviews and blogs monthly.