VERSE | CRACKED EDGES

I feel like cobwebs have grown in places 
Where once there were gleaming surfaces
In the sunshiny spaces of my mind
It’s getting harder and harder to find
The memory of that warm glow
I felt when I went about my day
It had lived on the side table
Near the vase of poppies and the picture frames
Now it’s gone, lost somewhere
I can’t find it in the haze in there

I can’t find the memory of the eagerness
That cloaked my every enterprise
That memory sat near the poppy vase
Both fractured, broken over time

I can’t find the memory of loving so hard
That my heart felt like it would burst
I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face
The cosmos would thrum in my chest and my throat

I can’t find the dream where I ran down a hill
And then went soaring up into the sky
On wings of quick-silvery lightness
Laughing; whooping with pure joy

Now that room of memories in my mind
Is shabby, desolate, decayed
I sometimes squint beyond the haze
Looking for reminders of earlier times
But the cobwebs grow in thick wedges
And empty frames stare back with cracked edges

VERSE | WHY?

Why? She asks me why do I
Not get to do the things that he
Does so freely, so independently
Cavorting with opportunities
Expanding his experience of the world
That we both live in; why just he?

Why? She asks me why am I
Held back by you and the others
The elders of the family
The uncles and the brothers
For my own good I’m told
Walled in like Rapunzel, from the world?

Why? She asks me why can’t I
Go out on my own. Why can’t I
Even stay alone at home?
Why have I been singled out
Among my siblings as the burdensome one
The ill-fated sister among the men?

Why? She asks me have you built
These rules to limit my existence
Holding me back, making me doubt
Myself, my being, my purpose in life
Strangling my dreams to always stand
Centuries behind a boy or a man?

Why? She asks me why are you
Complicit in this chauvinistic ruse?
Why did you learn to become small
To deliberately set yourself up for a fall?
You were better than everyone
A hero …. No a heroine!

You my mother, the architect
Of dreams, of hopes and even homes
Why did you let it all go?
Why are you expecting me to do
The same, be a wraith of myself
A fragile decoration on the shelf

Until I become someone’s wife
Until you can pass on the keys of my life
To someone else … to some man else
Why? She asks me as the tears well
In eyes that see the truth of the world
That see the expanse of her wretched road

That is why they killed them all off
The babies, the girls born centuries ago
There was divine justice in that
Saving them from a world that sat
In Judgement, in anger, in self pride
Over girls that survived the infanticide

Tell me mother, why was I
Born a woman into this life?
Why was I born into this home
my dignity defaced, my wings shorn?
Why do I feel like to get a fair try
At life, another life, I first need to die?

VERSE | WAR

LISTEN TO THE POEM BEING READ AT: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMLSPk6FW/
Cannons boom, bombs explode 
The world is the home of war
Lieutenants give crisp commands
To their soldiers, weary and sore

The tribunal sits in their gilded halls
Drinking their whisky tea
The senior most is ninety years old
The youngest is seventy three

They take pride in stoking this war
‘Tis the battle of righteous men
Sending sons and daughters to fight
While they cackle in unison

There’s chaos and killing; a dread that is stilling
The conflict they’ve wrought makes no sense
The old men don’t care, as war trumpets blare
Charged by the flourish of their pens

Soon the booming cannons and the bombs
Will end their brutal repartee
Of slashing and slaying - their bloody tribute paid
To their masters across the seas

The dead will be many, they’ll lie in the mud
Young soldiers from both sides, together
The grief and the pain will be the same
In the broken hearts of all the mothers

War is Jang* is война* is Guerre*
There is no pretty word for it
That can honour or extol or purify
The endless sea of blood it lets

As cannons boom, bombs explode
And the world crashes and burns
The inflection point for humankind
Is now at the cusp of no return.
Jang/ война/ Guerre: The word “war” in Urdu, Russian and French respectively.

VERSE | THE QUEEN

LISTEN TO THE POEM BEING READ AT: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZSdJxm38V/?k=1
I see her sitting under the tree
Dignified and serene even as she is encircled
In the cumbersome arms of poverty.
Destitution has cloaked her for many years
From head to toe it has persevered. But still
There are nuances of grace and light;
Of a decorum that has bested the blight.

Sparse hair is pulled back into a little knot
Threadbare clothes are mended and clean
Calloused feet wear leather sandals
Thousands of steps etched into their seams.
She sits there solitary and separate
Her expression is one of learned abjection
As she labours on in her enterprise
To live another day, to go on, to survive.

But every so often, when there is a lull
In the cresting and falling human swell
Where she sits, under the leafy canopy
The wretchedness leaves her face
And in its place
Shines a serene and quiet majesty
A poise, a stateliness
Quietly they still linger in her being.
Even as she sits under the tree
To beseech, to plead, to request
I can still see the queen.

VERSE | NO THANK YOU

“I love you and only you
You fill my heart in every way
I will be but a shell if you
Call it quits and leave me some day”
Said the man with the twisted lips
As he held her close, hands on her hips
He’d done this a lot and then changed gears
The words felt absurd even to his own ears.

She looked into eyes that were gleaming with fire
Was it hope, was it love, was it lustful desire?
The three entities then followed behind
As she walked into the space of her heart and her mind
There she sat them down, the judicious sleuth
And looked into their faces now lit up with truth
Hope sat there wilted, there was hardly a trace
Of sincerity and faith on its mottled face
Love was like a wraith of its radiant self
Like old dust that had drifted off of the shelf
Smouldering away in the furthest corner
With sly little tentacles sat covetous Desire
It looked at her trying to hide its true hues
But in the light of the soul that was hard to do.

She lifted the heavy hands from her hips
Bestowed a smile from her beautiful lips
“I suppose I should say a heartfelt thank you
But I won’t; those words, they just don’t ring true”.

VERSE| I AM THE MAN

This is for Noor, Qurat-ul-Ain, Saima and the countless nameless others that we never get to hear of, that have lost their lives to the shameless, lawless brutality of the men in their lives.

I am a man
I was born the only son of the family
I was born in the arms of plenty even when scarcity surrounded me
I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth even while my sisters shared the dregs of their copper bowls
I was born with the mantle of privilege and opportunity cloaking my lusty body.

I am a man
I grew up learning that I was better than my sisters.
I grew up knowing I was special.
I grew up expecting the world to be my oyster.
I grew up demanding that every whim and every fancy be fulfilled as naturally as I breathed.

I am a man
I know I am one of the special Male Fraternity
I know I have a world of unique advantages in my patriarchal homeland
I know that I can let my unbridled desires carry me on strong, brawny wings
I know that I can have anything I want.

I am a man
I take what I want every time I want it
I seize what my heart desires whenever it feels thus inclined
I possess by true means or false, whatever I covet
I destroy by any means I can that which I cannot have.

I am the man
I am the man who wanted a woman who did not want me
I am the man who was insulted, offended, livid at this dismissal of my desires
I am the man who then ignited the flame of his honour and masculinity
I am the man who avenged the unrequited heat of his loins

I am the man
I was born with the mantle of privilege and opportunity cloaking my lusty body.
I grew up knowing I was special.
I knew that I could have anything I wanted.
I destroyed by any means that which I could not have.
I am the man who ended her.

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