Faizullah’s choice of using the Ghazal form to write her poem was suitable and accurate. The Ghazal form is used for describing and talking about a beloved that could be a family member, later it was used to discuss the feelings of loss and longing. Faizullah is combining both subjects to write about her dear dead aunt. The word tree appears many times and occupies the role of the radif in this poem, moreover, it is a keyword that is used as a metaphor holding more than one meaning. In this paper, I’m going to discuss the relationship between trees and refugees and how they are related to Hasna Henna the writer’s aunt.
The word tree was used continually throughout the poem. Faizullah’s use and choice for this word was not a coincidence, seeing that it holds more than one metaphorical meaning in this poem; It could resemble family as in a family tree that suggests a chart which shows all the people in a family over many generations and their relationship to one another. Hasna Henna imbodies the rule of a connector between the tree and refugee. She is the speaker’s aunt, so she is considered to be a family and a crucial part of this tree. Moreover, the tree could be read as a refugee just as she mentions at the end of her poem. Faizullah considers all Rohingya’s refugees as her family since she was born to a Rohingyas parents that were suppressed by the Myanmar military.
Additionally, trees are a symbol of strength and stability; their roots enable them to stay still no matter how high they get. A tree starts as a sapling but then it grows so high and thick to become birds’ inhabitant, just like Rohingya refugees. They start a new whole life as saplings but then they flourish once again and get over their calamity to provide their families with safety. A new generation of Rohingyas will continue holding their ancestors’ values and pass it to the next generations to preserve their culture even after being suppressed. Just like trees their death will leave more seeds to breed and create a new generation of trees and never end the species.
At the beginning of the poem, the speaker shows unacceptance of her aunt’s death by asking many rhetorical questions, for example in the second sher she asks a rhetoric question about intimacy. As readers we could refer the word intimacy to several things, it could refer to the speaker’s aunt Hasna Henna since the whole poem was written about her. Another possibility is that it could be a reference to the intimate situation that was described in the first sher, brushing and touching one’s hair is an act of love and care that is usually done by a mother. The speaker might be missing the cosy moments between her and the aunt that was like a second mother to the speaker. Furthermore, the word intimacy could extend from the word lice in which they are intimate in the literal sense; they are sticky and hold on to your hair. The speaker’s first word in this poem was a rhetorical question, it feels as if she remembers her aunt whenever the word lice are mentioned.
Additionally, the speaker continues to ask so many rhetorical questions throughout this version of her poem but writes explicit sentences in her draft. For example: in this poem, she asks: “where now is the word for such intimacy?” but in the draft, she says: “I want back that intimacy”. In her final draft, she mentions her previous one that was written before her aunt died. The rhetorical questions are showing the denial the speaker is in, she cannot imagine what it would be like after her aunt has passed away, so she asks herself these different questions in order to figure it out.
The speaker is afraid she would forget her dead aunt, she asks: “will I forget her name”. This poem was written to preserve the memory of Hasna Henna, so she won’t be forgotten. Furthermore, the rhetorical questions could be directed to the readers to conceive them. Faizullah is trying to generalize her personal story and make it relatable to readers, this way she will get them to understand how hard it is to lose someone you love.
Moreover, the speaker’s continuous use of rhetorical questions shows how sceptical and unsure she is about her feelings. As if she does not believe she can get over her Aunt’s death, but then she starts to be firmer and steadier, she stops asking rhetorical questions and starts giving answers. For example, she answers the question “how else to perfume these needs we breathe?” and she gives the same answer written in three forms showing her confidence. Faizullah starts her poem with a depressing point of view thinking she is suffering alone in this world by describing some of her intimate moments with her aunt. Later she understands that her aunt’s memory will always live just like seeds breed which gives her some comfort.
The speaker realizes that her wide Rohingyas family will continue to grow and flourish slowly just like trees do. It might take a while she says but eventually, they will be there like a ‘fire hazard” or a “household of rare birds”. Faizullah uses juxtaposition in this sher to show how powerful their returning is going to be, they are going to be denigrators as flame to enemies, but warm and soft to their families to embrace them and make them feel safe. The rare birds could imply to the refugees as minorities after their decampment to other countries.
The speaker gives her aunt the nickname of a “night-blooming jasmine” to express he love for Henna since Jasmine is associated with love and symbolizes beauty. In her draft, she used the slash directly after her aunt’s name using metaphor indicating to her aunt as the “night-blooming jasmine”. The night in this term could imply to the dark time when Henna and the refugees had to get through their crisis yet, Henna succeeded and kept blooming even in her distress.
Faizullah continues with the description saying her aunt is a: “a sapling succeeds by flourishing from a tree seed”, meaning her aunt is a successful example of a seed that blossomed to become a great tree. Few lines later, Faizullah combines both metaphors that I have mentioned previously (night-blooming Jasmine and tree), and writes: “Night-blooming tree”, and then she equals it with “baby tree” and to “once and future tree”. In other words, the night-blooming Jasmine/tree that was once a sapling is now a tree that will continue to breed and create a future. The Night-blooming Jasmine could indicate to the first generation whereas the baby tree indicates to the second generation and the future tree to third and so on. After all, Faizullah is finally starting to accept her aunt’s death, she believes her aunt’s memory will always be remembered generations after generations which will be created by her aunt’s seeds (sons).
Faizullah makes her own unique changes on the known ghazal form and makes it unconventional by using different signs throughout her poem such as (=) and (+). These two signs catch the reader’s attention and make them read closely. The equal sign is used to enable the reader to connect between words and concepts, for example, the connection between night blooming tree, baby tree and a future tree that I have explained earlier makes him understand the relationship between trees and refugees. Other times she uses equal sings to give synonyms for the same word but in a different form, to emphasize the importance of this line and the meaning it holds. The plus signs in the line: “oceans+ oceans+ oceans” are used to show how far the distance between the speaker and her aunt is, to put it differently, the ocean is resembling the distance between the speaker and her aunt. In Faizullah’s previous draft she mentioned that her dying aunt is across to oceans, but here she writes three times ocean and not two because the third ocean shows the extra distance that was added by her aunt’s death, Henna is now farther than ever as a result of her demise.
At the end of the poem Faizullah connects the dots in the maqta by asking the readers to replace tree with a refugee, and then she concludes her poem by signing her name following the ghazal form’s rules, yet breaking some of them by using the plus signs. Tarfia’s “joy in the margins” was highlighting the forgotten case of Rohingyas’ people, whereas her lie is hiding the explicit meaning of the tree which meant refugee. Now that we reached the maqta we understand the connection between the title and the poem where Faizullah is literally starting with lice, ending with lies.