Eisha Sarkar

International Writing Program 2016, The University of Iowa, USA

The Song of the Dead

The faces, the places

The many races

Speeches, lectures

Many campuses

Across the oceans

I travelled so far

A student, a learner

Of customs, habits

My two degrees

An exemplary record

I could have landed

A job in a law firm

Then came a call

From my ‘home’

A tug at my heart

I returned to Kabul

A city in ruins

I gathered the pieces:

The detritus of war

I watched the young:

Eyes full of hope

Then came the desire

To rebuild a nation

My tool in hand:

A good education

And so I taught

Classes and classes

Building a nation

From its pieces

Then one day

I heard the ‘crackers

A celebration of sorts,

I smiled and thought

I walked to the window

And saw those men

“This ain’t the crackers,”

I told my students

They worried, they texted

The door pushed open

The students screamed

Entered a gunman

I tried to speak

He pulled the trigger

I fell down, ’twas all over

Twelve dead, they counted

An attack on education

In a disturbed nation

Don’t mourn our deaths

I tell you, students

Pick up your pens

Open your minds

Build a strong nation.

On August 24, 2016, terrorists attacked the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul. Desperate students used social media to ask for help. My friends lost a couple of very well-educated friends in those attacks. I created this piece based on the profiles of some of the people who were killed that night. The country needs to reconcile this tragedy and move ahead towards a stronger future.