Say the Names

Dipika Mukherjee
Dipika Mukherjee. Photo by Bobo Lin, Shanghai.

Dipika Mukherjee wrote the following poem in response to the August 5, 2012, Sikh gurdwara shooting in Wisconsin.

 

 

My name is Simran.
I am Sikh. 

Thousands of dollars in donations
will soon be heading to the victims
of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin.
A check was presented to
Police Chief Jerry Dyer
for the officer shot outside the temple.

When we die,
don’t we still
have names?

Michael Wade Page, 40,
died of a gunshot wound
after he killed six worshippers
wounded three others
as they prepared for Sunday services
at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin
in Oak Creek on Aug 5.

My mother makes
spinach with onion-garlic-
cumin adding a dash of
secret masala; she slathers
it on a tortilla with
a pat of butter.
She sprays the house
after she cooks,
until it reeks of Febreeze
and ocean breeze,
lavender dreams distill
in bedrooms; she wants the
house to smell Amreekan.

The fatal shooting happened on Sunday
at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin,
where six people were killed
and another three badly injured.
The gunman, named
Michael Wade Page,
was then shot by an officer. 

At school
I eat pizzas;
my friends
call me Sam.

Brian Murphy, 51,
was shot Sunday, is now recovering
after a second surgery,
Oak Creek Police Chief
John Edwards said. 

In red-yellow-blue-orange
turbans and gauzy scarves,
we mourn black and white
holding up photographs
lighting names with candles.

We are          invisible          in death.  

Six people killed, in Sikh place of worship           
The tragedy finds half-rhymes
Stamp out the hate, ramp up the love                  
but no one dirges the names 

Paramjit Kaur
Sita Singh,
Ranjit Singh
Satwant Singh Kaleka
Prakash Singh,
Suveg Singh Khattra

When the Granthi
leads a hymn in Punjabi,
I want him to toll names
like church bells:

Paramjit Kaur
Sita Singh,
Ranjit Singh
Satwant Singh Kaleka
Prakash Singh,
Suveg Singh Khattra

I know naming won’t bring them back. 

The house
smells of ocean breeze and lavender;
the frozen spinach uncooked,
no traces of masala,
as I wait

for my mother

to speak again.

  

Dipika Mukherjee’s debut novel on Malaysia was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize as an unpublished manuscript, then published as Thunder Demons (Gyaana, 2011) and Ode to Broken Things (Repeater, 2016). She won the 2016 Virginia Prize for Fiction with her second novel, Shambala Junction, which is being published by Aurora Metro later this year.


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