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International Women’s day, four poems

Another Woman by Imtiaz Dharker

This morning she brought green “methi” in the market, choosing the freshest bunch; picked up a white radish, imagined the crunch it would make between the teeth, the sweet sharp taste, then put it aside, thinking it an extravagance; counted her coins out carefully, tied them, a small bundle into her sari at the waist; come home, faced her mother-in-law’s dark looks, took the leaves and chopped them , her hands stained yellow from the juice;

The usual words came and beat their wings against her: the money spent, curses heaped upon her parents, who had sent her out to darken the people’s doors. She crouched, as usual, on the floor beside the stove, When the man came home she did not look into his face nor raise her hand; but bent her back a little more. Nothing gave her the right to speak.

She watched the flame hiss up and beat against the cheap old pot, a wing of brightness against its blackened cheek. This was the house she had been sent to, the man she had been bound to, the future she had been born into.

So when the kerosene was thrown (just a moment of surprise, a brilliant spark) it was the only choice that she had ever known. Another torch, blazing in the dark. Another Women. We shield our faces from the heat.


Shame by Zhila Mosa’ed

Unfamiliar with the blue of the sky, Unfamiliar with the shining green of the earth, Unfamiliar with the history of man’s covering his body, I am standing Inside a circle of ice, Surrounded by sorrow and anxiety; And naked, ancient and alone, I carry on my shoulders the thousand-year-old burden of shame, of coveredness, of modesty. O mothers of sleep Whose bones Are the ancient hiding place of the dead instincts, Look how my bare, ancient roots, Slowly but with resolution, Penetrate the ice.


Exorcism by Zaina Alsous

I can no longer pretend the flowers are enough, flowers in ink, flowers on plates, flowers in my shoe laces, candied flowers, 1-800 FLOWERS, balloon, birthday, funeral flowers, marshmallow flowers staining the milk pink. Flowers in my mother’s hijab frame the smile lines grown deeper; the long term health effects of appearing gentle in a hostile setting. Have you read the instructions on tigers? They may attack the unfamiliar. Remain calm, move slowly, adapt as the tremor of leaves. To survive is to convince the predator you are not really there. I can no longer pretend slowly alive, kneeling in the soil is enough. A nation of neon plastic straws, machines on the surface of Mars, reminds its citizens to be patient. Slowly, when the bill passes, slowly through diversity training, slowly through handshake and t-shirt and apology and apology and apology and apology and apology. I take a knife to the dam, bathing in the leaks. There are teeth in my laughter. Imagine a life of tectonic distortion: gaping, wet, magma, colliding with, really there. I scream my name in the pool, it is almost enough to hear the terror I can be. Remember when discovering fire, the heat of progress pairs a leather palm with new ways to eat and be eaten.


If They Should Come for Us By Fatimah Asghar

these are my people & I find them on the street & shadow through any wild all wild my people my people a dance of strangers in my blood the old woman’s sari dissolving to wind bindi a new moon on her forehead I claim her my kin & sew the star of her to my breast the toddler dangling from stroller hair a fountain of dandelion seed at the bakery I claim them too the sikh uncle at the airport who apologizes for the pat down the muslim man who abandons his car at the traffic light drops to his knees at the call of the azan & the muslim man who sips good whiskey at the start of maghrib the lone khala at the park pairing her kurta with crocs my people my people I can’t be lost when I see you my compass is brown & gold & blood my compass a muslim teenager snapback & high-tops gracing the subway platform mashallah I claim them all my country is made in my people’s image if they come for you they come for me too in the dead of winter a flock of aunties step out on the sand their dupattas turn to ocean a colony of uncles grind their palms & a thousand jasmines bell the air my people I follow you like constellations we hear the glass smashing the street & the nights opening their dark our names this country’s wood for the fire my people my people the long years we’ve survived the long years yet to come I see you map my sky the light your lantern long ahead & I follow I follow

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