Tuesday Reads ( Vol 10), 22 October 2019

Dear Reader,

There are many books and essays to discuss but today I would like to share two poems from a slim but exquisite and powerful collection of poetry called Serpents Under My Veil. It is by Kashimiri poet Asiya Zahoor. The book was published on 15 August 2019. She has written on Kashmiri and Caribbean Literature, exile and psycholinguistics. Her film ‘The Stitch’ has won the Critics award in the Second South Asian film Film Festival by Federation of Film Society of India and has been screened at various festivals including the 48th Roshd International Festival in Tehran. Her poetry is translated into many languages.

****

Lightness of Being in a Heavily Militarised Zone

before they lay barbed wire 
across our tongues
let’s sing of almond blossoms

before they hammer our heads
to harvest thoughts let’s think
what we want to think

before they wall our sleep
let’s whisper dreams
into cold cruel ears

before they blind us
with a burst of lead
let’s mirror our darkness

let’s engrave this story
with fingertips on palms
before they erase our words

*******

My Grandmother Spun Soft Revolutions on a Charkha

Turning the fleece
of a Kashmir goat
into cashmere.

Her lullabies
on a rabab
put heavy guns
to sleep.

Her prayers soared
from chimneys,
wished for rivers
not cursed with myths,
breasts not drilled
with bullets,
streets not hemmed

with barbed wire,
history
not written with scars.
She paused her singing
to boil almanacs
in a samovar,
inhaling embers,

exhaling fire. Her passion
faded like posters
on municipal walls

we ignore in our daily routine.
She offered trays
of mustard rice
to a shrine on a mountain

where a soothsayer
had predicted,
embers turn to ashes.


(C) The copyright to the poems rests with Asiya Zahoor.
Serpents Under My Veil has been published by Tethys, an imprint of Yatra Books.

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