By Aiman Khattak
I hear the cuckoo sing, Perched on a branch outside my window, Amidst the noise of rushing highway traffic, Its voice is loud and clear. The cuckoo’s song touches my heart, It is singing to the universe, It is singing to me, It says, ‘I bring hope, I bring peace’. Spring has come, and the cuckoo knows that, It calls out to all, To come out of their burrows, And behold the beauty of spring after a hard winter. The cuckoo’s song is soothing, It is full of hope, full of joy, It talks of life, vibrancy and rebirth, It makes me want to live again. But hush! A memory, an echo, a flash! Two gentle hands splashing water on my face, Getting me ready for school with the cuckoo singing near, A childhood memory now resurrected. I feel warmth rushing through my body, I feel warmth piercing my heart, As I listen to the cuckoo’s lovely lay, I feel more alive and content.
The cuckoo is a near-passerine bird, which means land-bird. It dwells in Africa and Southern Asia during winter, and migrates to Europe and Northern Asia in the summer. It is often found in woods that border open land. The male cuckoo sings two melodious notes: ‘cu-ckoo’, from which this family of birds gets its name. Cuckoos are brood parasites. This means that the female cuckoo tactically lays her eggs in the nests of other birds when they are not looking. The babies are then born to and raised by those other birds. I write this poem for the love of the Cuckoo, and in remembrance of my deep soothing childhood memories from my native land associated with this bird (known as the ‘koyal’ in my land) and its melodious note.
I am a doctoral researcher in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. My research occupies the intersection between the fields of peace and conflict studies, post-colonial and comparative literatures, and political philosophy. My doctoral project looks at contemporary Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani literatures through the lens of Michel Foucault’s theory of bio-politics, and Hardt and Negri’s concept of Empire, to understand the past three decades of conflict in these regions. This research is significant to inform future dealings of Empire in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan toward peacebuilding rather than conflict. I have previously completed my MPhil thesis on Global Branding and Third World Consumer Identities. I have also written and presented interdisciplinary papers in the areas of education, globalisation, consumerism, feminism, and post-colonialism. I am interested in further carrying on my research in the broader field of empire studies, specifically in relation to imperialism in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, as depicted in their literary writing.