Mas Selamat

The first time they strapped a bomb to his chest
somewhere in Kabul, he walked through a market
of scarves and whispering women without seeing,

listened to an imagined clock ticking time to a stop.
But in Singapore, he very nearly broke his finger in
the gap between window and frame, clambering past

the narrow questions of the detention centre. He fell
over fences, limped through storm drains and waited
in stairwells, angry enough to blow up this picture-

perfect country. The searching nation, quick to blot,
splayed him clean-shaven on their front pages.
But they never thought he would slip through

as a woman, a different kind of detonation.
He made his eyes soft and downcast, headed north,
refusing to swim the channel like some flailing dog,

but walked the bridge instead, buoyant at dawn,
wishing wires had no colour to tell them apart. Black and
tangled, there will be no way to know what earths them,

each one a holy thread of vengeance.
Only then will he look the soldier from the bomb squad
in the eye; see him as his equal and acknowledge his fear

as a necessary act of faith; to make the call, cut the cord
and hope that somewhere there is a God who will not
be welcoming a martyr into his arms today.

by Marc Nair
from Postal Code (2013)


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