By Maniza Naqvi
Like sugar in tea. It’s all good. Top kills and static kills, concrete and chemicals—have fixed everything, blocked it all, dissolved it all. It’s all good. Like sugar in tea– like blood in my veins– like the heroine in my blood-like the enemy in my head and like the prayers on my lips. All the comforting things which keep me where I need to be: in that safe place reassured that it’s all for the good. No need to connect any dots.
But when the sun sets on the harbor turning its waters the color of molten gold and then liquid black, like the uninterrupted, robust, gush that flows at the gas pump— and the dying light makes lovely the colors of the ships heavy with their goods, their cargo—waiting to leave—wheat and maize for food aid, tanks and men off to war on aircraft carriers and this stuff all this stuff in oil tankers— then, —I think of him—how I kissed his face and said goodbye, hugged him and sent him from this port in a war ship to defend our way of life. Because that’s what men like you told me—that sons like mine were doing: defending our way of life. You told mothers like me and sons like mine that this was a fight for our freedom and liberty and theirs too. That we were as you always had told us, good. Women like me, we were the true warriors, you said. You cheered us on, gave us rallying speeches that Sparta had depended on women like me: women who bore children to be sent to war and who cheered their men on to do battle. I took great pride in that, in being a warrior, defending my homeland from the enemy while sending off my men to battle them, over there, in theirs. And then came the messenger and a short while later, my son, he returned, my son. In a flag draped coffin. Nothing else no one else came after that. The enemy, you said who would attack did not come for me to fight. And now here it comes, in this gulf, the stuff for which his blood was spilt. This gulf that he has left is filled with my rage and anguish and sorrow. Here it comes, threatening our way of life: our goods, our god.
When you are alone in the confused maze of your thoughts of hatred and hubris –then— do you think of us: sons and mothers? Now that you have time on your hands, to fish, does the writing of a story occupy you? Because you would need to tell it won’t you? Sentence it in the way you want to? Flesh out the outlines of yet another murder most foul? Surely you do. Now that you have the perfect view for it: of a place where the hangman’s noose brought its cruel justice for the punishment of an assassin’s crime. Do you wonder about the quakes, the spewing of ash and how the earth has shuddered? Author of assassinations, top kill, ‘Bushmaster’, do you hear the sound of anguish carried to you on the evening breeze as the earth stirs and the waters gurgle? It is a mother’s grief and a mother’s wrath. When the waters turn black, she weeps: This is my body, this is my blood. Now you in your defeat, weep, now you suffer. Do you hear her? It is Tomyris sending you a message. Do you know her? How could you? For you have always defended empire—not those who have fought against it.
I hear her. I have been reading up you see. Now I read everything that I can get my hands on about that place to which I sent him alive, to kill, where he killed and from where he returned killed. I am learning now that he is dead. About what we have done and what you have done. And I found a story about a mother and a son. And men like you. It’s not new. This is not new. Neither this anguish, nor the folly, you see—it was all here all along—only we never cared to learn, to see, to read, to know.
I keep her story close to my heart. Her son, like mine, killed on the pretext of peace, betrayed on the pretext of a feast. I too am mad with grief. That mother defeated an emperor She defeated Cyrus the Great. Herodotus tells us how she had his corpse beheaded. She grabbed Cyrus’s head by a fistful of his hair and shoved it into the wineskin filled with the blood of her kith and kin. Herodotus tells us, that at this point she wailed in a raging scream and the earth shuddered for a mother’s pain: “I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood, and so I shall.” This is what you wanted? Now drown in it. This is my body—mine and this is my blood!
You have spilled my blood for this?
There are chemicals and technology I am told that fix everything which hasn’t died completely. And so I sit here in this gulf –baptized in my anguish unable to find reason, numbed with drugs and pills—I pour them down my throat like concrete down the oil well—hoping for a static kill—to dissipate my anguish—The murky waters I am soothed into believing will clear soon. Yet, I find solace that my grief does not go unnoticed, that I do not go unpunished for sending him to his death. Do you?