Three Poems by Usha Kishore

An Ode to Death

{To Reyhaneh Jabbari}

Usha Kishore
This is the last page
in the book of my life.
Let me give in to my destiny.
Death is not the end of life,
but death has entered life,
in a colourless breath of air.
I have died a thousand deaths.
I am the unheard wailing of a million women.
I am the lines of virgin verse seeking light.
I am the new order of womanhood.
Each life is a lesson learned; for me,
it is the flogging of my soul.
Life has not schooled me enough
for this unjust court of justice.
Truth lives beyond the lies of these accusers.
I do not beg for my life.
I do not plead for mercy.
I shed no tears.
This land, which gave birth to me,
does not weep for me, it only hurls abuse.
There is no beauty here – no beauty of eyes,
nor voice, nor dreams, nor thoughts, nor vision.
I shave the last shred of beauty in me, my hair,
to be rewarded eleven days in solitude.
My words are unending;
I leave them to you,
to cherish after I am gone.
Mother, do not cry for me, for the cursèd blow
of fate on my young life.
Do not weep for me through endless nights,
into endless dawns.  Do not turn my young eyes,
my young heart unto dust; let them live in others.
I want no flowers, no prayers, no grave, no mourning.
Give me away to the wind.  Let me fly.

{Reyhaneh Jabbari was a young Iranian woman convicted for murder and was executed by hanging in October 2014.  This poem is based on Reyhaneh’s last “voice message” to her mother, describing her ordeal in prison, for a crime committed while defending herself against a man who tried to rape her.  The message originally translated by the National Council of Resistance of Iran was subsequently published by the international press.}

Let Us Celebrate the Birth of This Refuge Baby

Let us celebrate this refuge family’s flight
across the desert, fleeing the persecution
of Herod, of an unholy regime. A massacre
of innocents, mass victims of proxy wars
of super-powers, with too many warheads
and too little humanity, leaving mushrooming
mounds of life jackets, a metonym of
homelessness; another holocaust that
refuses to shake the fatigued world;
a crisis that transgresses nations.

Let us celebrate the son and the mother,
who had nowhere to birth him, but in
a manger, amidst sheep and cattle.
Let us celebrate this Galilean Jewish Rabbi,
son of refuges, much awaited Messiah,
son of one God.  Let us celebrate the birth
of all these refuge babies, sons of many Gods
on the shores of the Aegean, where history
repeats itself in the wine dark sea, in the
barbed wire fences, in the rhetoric of threats,
in the eclipse of many moons that ward off
unwanted migrants, bearing  too many crosses.


{After the image of “Two Palestinian girls fleeing
 through the rubble”, Press TV, 2014}

How did they manage to stay alive, amidst
the hellfire raining down from the skies?
Their desire to survive the debris of the past,
falling mortar, shrapnel, ripped metal, shards
of glass and the stench of hearsed humanity,
makes them crusaders against a living war.

Cautiously, they move forward, burying their
childhood in the rubble. The older girl in red,
with the sandals of Hermes, pauses before flight;
her eyes scouring the wilderness of broken concrete,
like an animal fleeing.  She measures the magnitude
of loss and seeks an escape route, as she cautions
her barefooted sister.  Clinging on to sorority,
they steady themselves on the hope of the future,
as the tenuous ceasefire holds.  On the walls, opening
themselves to the heavens, school bags from
some other life hang precariously; shelves of shoes
stacked to tell a gruesome tale of lost feet.
Is that a red rag rising out of the floor or is that
a blood-stained hand seeking salvation?
Their eyes haunt me most; eyes, so accustomed
to the images of death, dancing in shades of  grey.

In the far end, hiding behind grim desolation,
a figure in black waits, picking bones from
its teeth, scattering ashes and ember in its wake,
counting time in falling bomb and expiring truce.