by Sameer Jha, age 16
partition Sameer Jha is a 16-year-old Congressional Award winning queer poet and educator who has been named one of the top 10 trans youth activists of color in America. Sameer travels across the United States to facilitate workshops and speak on panels reaching thousands of teachers and student leaders. His mission is to create empathy and acceptance for queer youth, and to put an end to the kind of anti-LGBTQ+ bullying he faced growing up. He has been featured in publications like New York Magazine, NPR, MTV News, Logo NewNowNext, Man Repeller, Mashable, Mercury News, Bay Area Reporter, and SFGate. Sameer was honored as the 2017 Youth Grand Marshal at Oakland Pride (50,000 participants at the nations most diverse pride event), and has been invited to intern for the Mayor of Oakland to expand her LGBTQ+ platform. The Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization, selected Sameer as their 2018 Youth Ambassador. As a half-Indian Hindu and half-Pakistani Muslim raised by immigrant parents, Sameer’s poems explore themes like gender, race, religion, queer experiences, and Islamophobia. Sameer’s writing is an extension of his activism, something that allows him to connect with people and draw them in. He sees poetry as a powerful storytelling tool that communicates deeply personal, yet somehow universal experiences of struggle, resistance, and hope. Meaning is embedded in the form he chooses, where he breaks meter, rhymes perfectly...or doesn’t. Sameer is a designated California Arts Scholar, recipient of a Governor's Medallion for creative writing, and a Scholastic Art & Writing National Gold Medalist. Sameer plans to study linguistics, poetry, and gender studies in college, and eventually become a professor.

“One nation, torn apart / by cartographic line / and the thunder of fifteen million footfalls. / Bodies pile and neighbors leave / for a chance to live. / That history, I am its future.”



an indian pakistani sestina


August, 1947. The British divide Colonial India into two independent countries, Muslim Pakistan

and Hindu India, inciting the largest and bloodiest mass migration in human history.


One nation, torn apart

by cartographic line

and the thunder of fifteen million footfalls.

Bodies pile and neighbors leave

for a chance to live.

That history, I am its future.


The fated future.

Like cells, doomed to split apart

tearing people, taking lives

like each human had a dotted line

across their heart, “cut here” and leave

unaware of the destruction, of the fall-


-out, the cleanup, the spilled blood which falls

from my veins as I watch from the future

unable to scream or leave

like the little boy hiding, watching his parents diced apart

with swords, closing his eyes and mouth and running across the line

with only a bloody teddy bear, to live.


He prays for his parents in the religion that took their lives.

It doesn’t matter which faith; both fall

under the same nation, divided by a false line.

False, because fifteen million people needed to run to have a future

and refugees pulled apart

doors of trains only to find hundreds of dead bodies, murdered trying to leave.


On the tree of Hindustan, I am the leaves.

The massacre gave way to life

as my parents, on the fiftieth anniversary of partition, vowed “till death do us part.”

My blood is the innocent blood that fell

on both sides; the animosity of the past only a haunting memory in the future

where I straddle the line.


I am half-Indian Hindu, half-Pakistani Muslim; my family line

proves there is hope, if you believe

in miracles, I am one, I am the future.

Each day I live

is a day closer to the fall

of the forces tearing my nation apart.


It’s time to take apart this line.

Make this wall of wills fall to the ground, and leave.

As long as I live, I am the future.


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