I Turn Away

[Note: This poem is dedicated to the women who have been subjected to sexual violence, rape, subjugation, and discrimination in the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere. The poem should be read in the context of certain cultural practices and historical events. I wrote this poem after the Delhi gang-rape in December 2012].


My heart, it breaks
It rains blood
I am a moon massacred
In a darksome night

I am not the first one
Nor will I be the last indeed
Yet I am alone in grief
All alone in my agony

They ask me to mask my face
To garrison my body
And disguise my curves
To fortify my buttocks
And fasten my vagina
Lest I shall seduce
Cause them to sin
Or pursue my desires

In the days bygone
They bought and had me sold
In lieu of tears, riches and gold
I brought disgust
In the eyes of my creators
They buried me in shame
Or else set me aflame
I became the property
Of kings and noblemen
Of prophets and priests

Nowadays there’s talk
Of my liberation
I am in the headlines
Of the daily newspapers
My body is on display
On television screens
In posters and billboards
Street corners and city squares

I am a toy in the hefty hands
Of the pimps and politicians
My existence is a threat
To the social structure
And communal harmony
My suffering a collateral damage
In the territorial conflicts
Domestic and international affairs

They keep playing with me
I am their victim
The weaker sex
The lesser human
Poor woman!

Today, I turn away my face
From the cruel humanity —
Let there be no tears, no fears
No retribution whatsoever
Let there be no solicitation
For justice —

No more will I cry
No more be a victim
No lesser human
And will be Woman!

© Sadaf Munshi, 2013




Every morning we wake up
With a feeling of disgust
Just another day
Of routines and rituals

Your diligence is awe-inspiring
I keep rolling restless in bed
As you calmly get ready
To set out for the usual business
Every day

And as you step out of that doorway
I turn my eyes to the windowpane
And entice the heavenly breeze
To play with my hair
Let me open my arms
To the warm embrace
Of the morning sun
Let me bathe in its crystal rays
And sanitize my sluggish body
Of its banal burdens,
Of punctuality

And when you retire
From your day’s work
To prepare for yet another one
I plan to wait and watch
For the star-studded night
To descend on earth
As the sleepy neighborhood
Rests senseless and silent
On its rugged foundations

I sit in my armchair
And contemplate
On my losses and my gains
I cannot adapt to your timetable
You will not change yours for mine
Our worlds are miles apart
We meet only at the thresholds
To say Hi and Goodbye

© Sadaf Munshi

This, That and Nothing

I stand by the roadside
Waiting for something
Or perhaps nothing?
A man walks past,
Limping towards me
With a burning cigarette
In his left hand
I move aside in a jiffy
And notice a little boy
Pretending to be a puppy dog
“Wow wow”, he frolics
On the concrete pavement
As his mother turns to his father
“Which comic shop should we go to?”

It’s a cold rainy day today
I hear gunshots in my thoughts
One hundred and thirty two
Little angels somewhere
On the other side of the globe
Have been done to death
In cruel vengeance
By six young men
Seeking heaven

I turn my gaze over my shoulder
Two pretty women are talking
“Have a Merry Christmas!”
“Bye! See you soon”.

I look at the locomotives
Parked in front of me
A man from the other end
Smiles a gentle “Hi”
I am perturbed

The little boy is back
With a bag full of articles
“I want to go to another comic store”
I look at the cell phone in my hand
Messages from across the world:
We stand in grief with Peshawar

Women are shopping for the holidays
I see a pair of dogs
Outside a coffee shop
Sniffing past my legs and feet
And cuddling on to their owner
In warm affection

My hands are trembling
I look around for my car
Where am I going?
What was I waiting for?

         © Sadaf Munshi.

This Is No Dream

Ah, the poverty of the written word!
It does not carry the punctuations
Nor gestures or embellishments
Of a spoken utterance
Listen to the silence!

I went sleepless and troubled
Hiding under my pallid skin
As a thick blanket of darkness
Enveloped the starless night

This is no dream, my love
For dreams have no anchors –

You have frozen in space
Like a timeless statue
A figureless corpse
In a remote galaxy

Do not be disturbed
When I break through
Your protective armors
And quietly slip in

© Sadaf Munshi, Denton, Jan. 19, 2014

A handful of sky


Memories of a handful of sky
A moonlit night
A heavenly garden
Moments frozen in a macrocosm
Mired in haziness
A collage of images
Of the dead and the doomed.

A treasure
Of a thousand smiles
A ten thousand cries
A million hearts
Breathing hope
And drinking grief.

Mothers’ frantic calls
Sounds of the marching boots
Of soldiers, warriors,
Freedom fighters.
A neighbor’s cry
At a newborn’s death
Curtained windows
And latched doors,
Blacked out evenings
And macabre mornings
Waiting for deliverance.

A faceless figure
In the deadly dark
Sucking at a juvenile’s blood –
Tell me who you are
What you are –
A priest, a saint, a sinner?

Give me a word
A sword
To tear through
The deadwood,
The senile past,
The arrogant enemy.

Give me my handful of sky
My bit of earth!

© Sadaf Munshi Oct. 6, 2011