as women before us have stood,
looking back at our burning cities,
watching the smoke
rise from our empty homes.
It was quiet then. And cold.
We heard their cries, the caged birds
clawing at their perches, our daughters
naked in the hungry mob.
Such death. The smell of justice
drifting on the burnt wind.
We saw it all,
saw the fire fall like rain,
saw our tears
track stiff, white veins
down our bodies,
saw the brine crawl
through salt-cracked skin.
Now, turning in the restless night,
we dream we stand there still,
alone on the hill’s black belly.
We, the forgotten,
whose names were swallowed by God.
This poem first appeared in Ploughshares, 2004
Pireeni Sundaralingam is co-editor of Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas Press, 2010), which won both the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Book Award and the 2011 Northern California Book Award. Her own poetry has been published in journals such as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and The Progressive, anthologies by W.W.Norton, Prentice Hall and Macmillan, and has been translated into several languages. Sundaralingam was born in Sri Lanka and currently lives in California.