Empathy to Rage

A poem by Vira Paky on anti-Blackness and racism against Black people fleeing Ukraine.

Videos play like my childhood memories

As Ukrainian children leave behind their fathers

They frolic and sing among the hellfire

Building castles out of the rubble

Home crumbling beneath their soft feet

A worn path familiar to my African soles

Historical bells ring true as the war rages on

To be so young but already a target

Running away before you can walk

Pained tears sprint in tandem knowing how it ends

That the struggle starts after refuge is sought

In being alone and forging home on distant soil

Held hostage by an unfamiliar language

Clutching photographs of family and friends

As if they can embrace you back in solace

After two decades of refuge, the ache remains

Aching becomes agonising as the conflict boils over

As a South Pacific spectator, segregated by ocean

I am left with little to do but watch and pray

But even in Armageddon, racism rears its head

Flourishing in border controls and Ukrainian police officers

Being melanated in war is a death sentence

Plights of my skinfolk out of Ukraine fail to relent

Making my quiet empathy bloom into a rage

That anti-Blackness persists in the face of destruction

Twenty-two years and yet I am still shocked

To see how the world disposes of Black bodies

How we are forced to fend and defend for ourselves

Shamefully and sorrowfully, I envy white crises

The manner in which the world cradles white lives

The endless sea of Black and Brown bodies

Lost to war, displaced, left astray, and alone

Numb to our deaths, there is no outcry

The world moves on as we mourn

Yet they still interrogate each pang in my chest

They try to debate me out of my torment

White noise accompanies my sorrowful symphony

I tire to nuance myself blue, yellow, and red

Shake everything but their boat

But the dawn greets me with endless headlines

Smirking at my hollowed chest and vexed mind

Tugging my worn heart every which way

I try to pray for everyone

After days of trying, I finally choke on my tears

Trying to claw out my own sullied throat

To make space for all this chaos

I question,

“How can I pray for those who would have let me perish?”


Tell me.

Feature image: Nuanzhi Zheng 郑暖之。

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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