WINNER: Praise Us, For We Are Dead

An imam shouts over bullhorn feedback, and broadcasts that we need to welcome and provide for a new Pakistani family in the area.

As I read this beautiful poem, entire worlds bristled in my mind. The narrative space of the poem is meticulously managed and the images and metaphors both stun and console. Eventually, miraculously, the poem becomes its own subject: “a / small / act of [a] body / trying to / give someone / a home…” I had to read it several times — to let it change me, to be sure I was in a place to be changed. This is no small feat.

—Billy-Ray Belcourt

An imam shouts over    bullhorn feedback,          and broadcasts
that      we need to welcome and provide for       a new Pakistani
             family in the area.         When   it’s    Jummah    in    the
summer, heat   lamp suns strike the back              of    prostrated
             necks–     sweat communes        and        rolls   off   skin
             smoother than slurs off lips         as you leave            the
Islamic centre parking lot.             A holy perspiration
crashes in the middle of              janamaz fibres
              flooding a crater                     casted  by  your forehead.
              Sit up,               set your gaze       down,       tell me;
wasn’t every ocean first just an     earthly wound,             we
bandaged with moisture?           An incision  we  have          cried
above      until       we could swim it       end-to-end?         Aren’t
we all just             trying to make torn flesh      whole again?  The
carpet in the prayer rug,   now saturated–           wet     and
              salty        as the Clifton shore.   This is a                small
act of your body     trying to       give someone            a home
that they no    longer have.         The next week,     uncle   breaks
shoulder- to-shoulder silence     with    his       cracking      joints;
             strained knees      listento a khutba        about partitions.
A sermon            honouring the dead      halfway       around   the
world–     the ground splits       open andtombstones erect in the
middle of the masjid,    but my family still can’t            find
             our ancestors’      graves         in                         Pakistan.
             Sometimes ghosts are    the                  realest   piece    of
something         we have left.       This poem      is about      losing
a home,         and trying to find it,     and failing,     and surviving,
             and building,        and having to                      house    its

About the author

Fareh Malik is an author and artist from the Greater Toronto Area. Originally a spoken word poet, he has been recognized internationally by many literary presses and has won several poetry awards in his emerging career. Recently, he was named the 2022 PEN Canada New Voices Award winner, and his book Streams That Lead Somewhere was longlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the Hamilton Literary Award.