Volume 1 Issue 33: Trees

Home of the Weaver Birds

Jose Varghese

Lena took me to the window and signaled me to look down. The small tree on the pavement across us was burnt down. A lonesome yellow weaver bird hovered around its charred branches. It wasn’t clear from the eighth floor whether it chirped.
“Hannah used to watch them weave their nests from here”, Lena said. “Do you know that she’s no more a child?”
“What do you mean? She’s just nine years old.”
“But the transition happens earlier these days, Abram. Food choices, lifestyle, or whatever…”
“So, she was going through a difficult phase already?”
“Of course. And this shouldn’t have happened. She witnessed that supermarket getting blown up, and saw people taken out in stretchers… all of it. Don’t you think she needs some help?”
“Lena, you have no idea what’s going on around us. Hospitals are all filled with the victims of the air raids. I don’t think anyone here is in a position to help anyone else. You know how they prioritize things.”
“So you think our daughter is not a priority anymore in this godforsaken country? You can’t even get a clinical psychologist from your contacts come over and talk to her?”
“Calm down, honey. We’re going through a crisis. You know that.”
The TV news broadcast showed visuals of the bombing of the National Museum. A reporter explained the loss of centuries-old cultural artifacts that were conserved there. Then, another reporter showed the plight of a bunch of children in a small town. They were safe in their school building during an air raid, but had to return to a life where no homes or family members existed.
I walked to Hannah’s bed. She lay there with her eyes transfixed to the ceiling. It was not that I didn’t want to get some immediate help for our firstborn; or that I didn’t want to leave the place and return to our homeland. But the job in the Embassy meant I had to be responsible for the lives of others from our homeland.
“She used to feed those birds”, Lena said.
There was so much I’d missed all these years! Hannah always seemed happy with her school work and talked mostly about places that she wanted to visit during our summer breaks. How I wish I could listen to her chatter again! She never told me about the birds. And I hadn’t even noticed that tree on the pavement. How many years would it have taken to grow so tall on the desert soil? Was there someone who watered it? What would the weaver birds do now – a lifetime of their work, and home, gone?
“We should get back home…”, I said.
“Is it possible now?” Lena walked to my side, rubbing my arm with her ice-cold hands.
Hannah looked in our direction with expressionless eyes and allowed a smile escape through her parched lips.
“I don’t know…I don’t know…”, I mumbled, wondering whether I should curse, or bury my face in my hands.


Jose Varghese is the author of ‘Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems’ and his short story collection ‘In/Sane’ was a finalist in the Beverly Prize, UK. His poems and short stories have appeared in journals/anthologies like The Salt Anthology of New Writing 2013, Unthology 5, The River Muse, Chandrabhaga, Kavya Bharati, Postcolonial Text, Dusun, I Am Not A Silent Poet and Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis. He was the winner of The River Muse 2013 Spring Poetry Contest, a runner-up in the Salt Flash Fiction Prize 2013, and a second prize winner in the Wordweavers Flash Fiction Prize 2012. He was shortlisted in Hourglass Short Story Contest 2016 and two of the Eyewear Fortnight Poetry Prize competitions in 2017, and was commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize 2014. He is the founder and chief editor of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts and Strands Publishers.


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