All posts by Sania Irfan

A Peace of Rope

Here is a poem of mine which received a silver category award in The Royal Commonwealth Essay Writing Competition 2017:

We, with all our people, have reached the summit.

Us, together, forever-

or so, we think.

 

We thrust off our backpacks,

As our triumphant smiles soar.

Those heavy, essential backpacks.

We do not need them anymore-

or so, we think.

 

Thus, we, the mountain-conquerors,

Throw down our will and wisdom

We, the mountain-conquerors,

Dressed in light-hearted freedom

We, the mount-…….

 

Suddenly,

The cliff-top cracks just the slightest bit,

The air seems to grow thin,

As a whisper from the crack creaks in,

“But which one of you is better?”

 

We, the mountain-conquerors,

Seeking superior freedom

See that we’re tanned differently

Like colours from a spectrum-

 

The whisper says,

“But some must be better than the rest,”

Like a child boasting her school spirit, I say:

“Of course, we’re the best, better than the rest!”

I laugh.

What a catchy rhyme it is!

 

We the mountain-conquerors,

Adamant; thirsty for the “best” freedom,

See only the dispersed colours,

Our vision stunts; we do not see the spectrum.

 

Better.Better.Better.

Whose skin is better? Whose height is better? Whose name is better? Whose dress is better?

You want to be better than me.

I want to be-

I am better than you-

or so, I think.

 

The crack becomes a gap- wider and wider

until

we have to leap across it to meet each other

But leaping is dangerous, terrifying,

especially at such an unprecedented height,

Clouds come in between us, muddling our sight.

 

The gap grows wider and wider,

We cannot leap across it anymore,

“What is happening,” I ask you.

You are not sure.

 

The whisper grows louder.

And louder and louder,

till the space in between us

fills up with voices.

Howls and cries and monstrous noises.

I ask you, “What is happening?”

I can hear you no more.

You shout something unintelligible,

I am not sure.

I cannot hear you over the howls of hatred.

Our voices are overpowered

by sounds bigger than all of us,

louder than all our mountain-conquering roars combined-

or so, I think.

 

Soon, we stop trying to listen to each other,

so you and I-

we no longer sing our mountain-climbing songs,

my people have forgotten them and I choose to do the same.

We no longer talk,

about every conifer and rock,

as we did when we were on our way to conquer the mountain.

Thus, we the mountain-conquerors, give in.

To the monstrous sounds, as the air grows thin.

 

Instead, the voices in the gaps go on with the howling and yelling,

We let them do the talking and telling,

They tell me about how you’re doing.

You said I am inferior, I am told.

I’m convinced you’ve turned cold.

And the more we listen to the voices, the greater the gap grows.

My people and your people are becoming foes.

 

Thus, we the mountain-conquering pack of sturdy victors,

Fall prey to the divisive, destructive curse.

The leaders of my people allow fanaticism to grow,

They reinforce the belief that you are my foe.

Your leaders deliver eloquent speeches,

In a heavy stature that none other reaches.

Their “diplomatic” messages laced with fancy words,

The fanatic hatred here, for their sinister words,

All combine so that your leaders sanction the massacres of my people,

And then my people catapult across to kill your people.

The void between us fills up with blood.

And this space separates “your people” and “my people”,

Different entities, different worths.

It distinguishes the worth of our lives,

Now hatred blooms and freely thrives.

 

Thus you and I,

still devoid of will and wisdom,

still competing for better freedom,

vindictive victims of a violent void,

wounded watchers of a needless war,

watch our people catapult across to “the other side”-now, a derogatory name for a faraway land that we had once proudly conquered together.

My heart tastes the bitter irony,

After aeons of separation; when we do overcome the divisive power of the gap,

we kill.

In an empty search, devoid of wise will,

in a lost finding of our superiority- still.

 

The gap grows wider and wider,

the blood and the roaring voices louder and louder.

We witness cold-blooded murder

in the lost finding, of our superiority, until

 

it is only the two of us left,

Everyone else is dead.

They conquered the eight letters of mountain,

Not the five letters of death,

But then, it was a small crack in the large cliff that had led to the deadly ruckus,

After all, we have a knack for letting little things destroy us.

Letting little things destroy our mountain-conquering selves.

 

But now, in the distance,

I peer beyond my once-rock-solid ground,

now soaked in blood, now a bloody quag,

I look across the realm of the howls of hatred,

I gaze through the muddled myriad of images in the fog,

I strain my eyes and ears to see and hear what’s true,

And in my desolate, desperate hopelessness,

I see you.

 

You’re bruised and wounded, just like me.

I can feel the pain stream from your eyes,

And flood into mine, like rivulets into a sea.

Your hurting, heavy existence

Your regretful, late resistance

Makes you so much like me.

 

At the end of this monstrous, violent, hate-spewing race,

When I look at your blemished, almost broken face,

I realize that in this deadly, desolate chaos,

It is our excruciating pain and scars that unite us,

So you and I, the last ones left,

You and I, equally bereft,

You and I shall merge this cleft.

 

The gap is too wide, too large in length,

We call out to an invisible power for strength,

Hoping that our helpless pleas will not be in vain,

We are desperate to reunite, to share the pain,

 

Then suddenly, like unexpected, buffeting rain,

Memories bullet through my mind, and my eyes strain

as I scramble through the rubble on my ruined side,

searching for the backpack, I had once cast astride,

With broken bodies on our cleaved pinnacle,

We frantically search, praying for a miracle,

 

Sodden-hearted, on the cold cliff,

we’re losing hope, we’re about to give in,

When I find a bag-tattered, torn and thin,

That backpack was mine; it had a store of will and wisdom,

may be tattered now, but nevertheless is wholesome.

My heart leaps as I reach inside, to pull out a rope,

The prop that had brought us here- now our last hope,

Perhaps, this is what it was meant for, all along,

To resuscitate our travelling stories, to revive our mountain-climbing song,

 

It is a piece of rope, a rope of peace.

A peace of rope that we wish to bring.

I throw that piece of peace your way,

The winds push it forward so it can sway your way,

And the rope reaches your scarred hand,

We pull with all our might to merge the land,

You shout, “Hold on”. I assure you I will,

We pull and we pull to cure the divisive ill.

The winds and us, all tug at the rope,

This peace of rope will heal us, we hope,

And soon, the mountain fragments start shaking and shivering,

We pull on firmly, while the ground beneath us keeps quivering,

 

And slowly, slowly, we pull ourselves and the mountain together.

Blood-soaked, bruised and wounded and weathered,

We, the scarred mountain-uniters stand before each other,

The crack in the cliff is gone, the winds no longer wuther,

The voices and whispers have faded away,

Tear-soaked, “We made it,” we say.

 

Our piece of rope is kept safely by our side,

Our peace of rope is meant to abide.

The winds celebrate, the air rejoices,

The breezes sing songs in elated voices,

We are still different in dress, skin and name;

But in pain, healing and joy-

we’re

just the same.

***********************************************

So if you ask me what peace is, I

will tell you

that it is a stubborn hope; it is a piece of rope-

rough to hold on to,

but it stops you from falling from the edge of the cliff

into the abyss of turmoil;

 

Twist its meaning, and it will become a halter,

a means of oppression,

a falsely painted movement,

a painful regression;

 

But above all, we cling onto it

to remain united at the top of the summit

Us, together, forever.

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What They Say About Poets

Poets are sensitive people, they say,

Made out of fire and flowers and untameable ferocity,

raging in a storm of words 

that pours through the cloud and fog of a pen,

ripping through the blankness of paper.

 

Poets are beautiful people, they say,

Gathering the joy and pain of the world in a chamber of their heart, in a lump in their throat.

Alone in crowds, alive in books,

Writing awake and asleep, in the open and in nooks.

 

Poets do not succumb to time, they say,

May it be the little, shaking hand attempting- for the first time- to write more than two lines,

or the wrinkled wrist trembling under the weight of bygone times;

Etching eternity into paper.

 

In the tales of poets they speak of, perhaps it is so

That a poet’s life is a deep chest where poetry is aglow.

For they are weavers of warmth and rawness and joy and woe.

Playground, Battleground

You come here to play and hurt. 

But I have to bear your stares

and all the things that you do to safeguard the false masculine honour that you have created for yourself,

to taint the false feminine honour that you have painted for me.

You hate it. You hate it when I jump and run.

As if it isn’t the ground but your being that I’m stepping on and trampling.

I play with the inflated ball of your ego, it seems,

because tennis balls aren’t meant to hurt “strong boys” like you-

are they, now?

 

How I wish your ogling, hooting existence would diminish just as you aim to do to mine!

Though the thorns that you have strewn in my way, make my feet bleed;

with my blood-soaked feet, 

I will keep walking ahead.

And I will stain your perfect pavements,

the centres of your mafia of oglers.

My bloody foot-prints will tell the story of my struggle and your cruelty.

But remember:

My story is your stain, not mine.

I will not cower in shame.

 

Rather,

I will gather

all the hurt caused by your cat-calling, gawping existence,

encase it in stones that I will throw at you

with the same hands which you called weak,

as I stood alone and unarmed in the arena,

while you hid within your palace of privilege, along with your herd of gangsters.

Hunh. And you call me fragile?

 

Remember:

Your fragile, smirking, irking being 

can bring me no shame.

Hidden behind windshields, zooming past me in cars, you honk your filthy horns.

But my honour thrives as I walk across the malicious path of thorns.

 

Above all, remember:

You have already lost.

I am destined to win.

And this

is where I begin.

Tale of The Lone Climber

Trudging up the mountain, I am all alone.
Days of the lowland marshes are long gone.
Playdays in the lowest valleys, where the sun shone bright,
Are now as distant as the valleys-almost out of sight,

And trudging up the mountain, I trip over a boulder, shrouded by ice,
I am no longer the speedy go-getter, getting up in a trice;
But I do stand up, at the speed of a freezing tortoise,
I stand up, nevertheless-amid my mind’s silent noise,

With snow-sunk boots and a heavy cape that I’m wearing less; hauling more,
I search for the next piece of walkable track, tapping on it, to be sure,
Nothing is easy, everything is covert,
From the mountains to the animals to my own heavy heart,

Must I blame myself for yearning to reach the mountain peak?
Is it my abandoning friends or my stubborn self that is weak?
Are they to be blamed for breaking the promises of conquering summits together?
Or is it the fault of the menacing rocks, the threatening wind, the merciless weather?

Trudging up the mountain, I am nearly hopeless; tired, and alone.
My body numbs and like the mountain, it seems to turn to stone.
But from a stubborn hope, a surprisingly unbreakable dream, I keep going.
Falling, stumbling, crying, rising, lying, walking, dragging myself…..but going.

I keep going on and on until
I reach the mountain-top and see them-my old friends, probably playing, safe and sound,
As specks of black and brown, spotting the smooth, unchallenging, lower ground,
I wish they were here too, that we could tell tales of our mountain-conquering journey,
That the “my” and “I” in my tale could be “ours” and “we”,

But I am here, all alone-alone to touch the clouds, and feel the Sun’s rays blossom over my head,
Alone to taste the nectar of self-fulfilment, to embrace the once-faraway snow-bed,
I am here, all alone, to take pride in my bruises and scars,
I am here to befriend the shining moon, the twinkling stars,
And after trudging up the mountain, after numerous introspective fights,
I have finally made it to the top, to sing with the Northern lights.

Be-Numb

“Don’t feel too much,

Benumb yourself,”

They lull you to sleep,

“Hush a bye baby on the treetop,

When the wind blows the cradle will rock,”

Forgetting that

“When the bow breaks the cradle will fall,

Down will come baby, cradle and all.”

 

Their little cradle of wishful thinking-

Their flimsy enclosure of all-is-well,

Is breaking,

The bow that ties this cradle high up

In the world of privileged ignorance

Is breaking,

The knots of safety from thought

And protection from change,

Are breaking;

 

But they will still pat you on the back,

Say that you ought to “stay on track”,

“Don’t feel too much, benumb yourself,

Let pain be a book biting dust on the shelf,”

Fire is ablaze but they will repeat one line:

“Trust us, everything is fine.”

 

But their hut of lies is burning,

Breaking.