“For Our Sikh Brothers and Sisters”: A Poem

For our Sikh brothers and sisters

by Laurel Benhamida


You for me
your children crying for you
instead of mine for me
or ours for us,
or for six of us…
and one officer now one of us,
How can this be?
Our faiths born across the sea,
Borne by us to this shore,
Seeking justice, freedom, safety, prosperity, straight paths to God, and more.
Escaping webs of influence and bribe,
oppression, corruption, the power of the family, clan, and tribe
we thought.
But so easy it is not
I see we in this man’s confused and tangled dark thoughts
have been caught.

It could have so easily been six of us
Listening to a Ramadan khatira,
In our stead six of you
In your always-with-comfort-food-for-any-and-every-guest welcoming gurdwara.
How can we apologize,
we did not want this,
we did not do it,
we cannot undo it,
we grieve
this suffering for you,
but there is also this natural
yet shameful
feeling of relief
we cannot escape,
engendering in our hearts a new, tortuous kind of survivor’s guilt
unique to this multicultural interfaith quilt.
You are the other
We are the other
Your men in turbans take the risk,
Our women in hijab take the risk,
Who ever thought wearing a rainbow-colored silken or white cotton shalwar kamees
could be a risk?
You are the other
We are the other
Let us grieve here
As we think, it would not have happened there, over there, back there,
Well not like it happened here,
There the murderer would not have been confused,
would not have killed you,
thinking you were me,
So this is a time for a new honorable bond of brotherhood and sisterhood you see.
Come sister, come brother,
Let us remember God together.



© 2012 Laurel Benhamida


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