Below is a selection of writings from Shahidah, Including Poetry, Prose and Shorts. These pieces will all be included in Vol 1 of her Poetry and Shorts collection Dimensions.
The roti maker squats beside her earth oven. Bebeji has asked me to take our rotis to her, so that she can cook them in time for our dinner. I have no idea of the time. I only know it is late in the day, and the others will be arriving soon from their work in the fields. We will all sit around the fire in the mahdaan, and eat together.
Earlier in the day I had carried the matka down to the stream, to fill it with water for Bebeji. While I was at the stream I met Zohra and Aisha, who were washing their clothes. They were banging them; bashing them on the rocks, to get the dirt out. Their actions had a rhythm. Swing the clothes up in the air, high above the head, then bring them crashing down onto the rocks. Down, up, crash. Down, up, crash. Clothes and bodies swaying, as they sang to the rhythm of the latest hits of Lata Mangeshkar. Their voices like mountain flutes.
I watched and listened, for I don’t know how long. Lost in those moments. Lost in that rhythm; in the sound of the voices; in the flow of the water. Humming the tunes; making my own refrains.
The roti maker is deeper voiced, from years of smoking her hooka. She is singing the old songs, lilting, haunting, so sad. Her rhythm is slower. She peels an uncooked roti from the top of the pile. Swings it gently towards the oven, down into it, and slaps the roti on to the side. She peels off the cooked roti. Throws it in the air, and it lands with a slap on a pile of cooked rotis. She gently covers them with her brilliant white cloth. Up, forward, down, slap, up, down, rest. Up, forward, down, slap, up, down, rest. The roti maker is Zubeida with the grey eyes. She has a few yellow teeth. Her skin is like the earth before the monsoon comes. Her smile is the red ribbon around my heart. She is beautiful.
This is my home.
roti - flat bread
bebeji - grandmother
mahdaan - courtyard
matka - round pot
hooka - large pipe for smoking tobacco
Playful Panthers are Perfect
If panthers can be perceptive, poor
Pakistani, and positively potty.
Then I could be one.
If panthers can be confident, colourful
Considerate and confused.
Then maybe I am one.
If panthers can be artistic, analytical
Active and angry.
I quite possibly am one.
If panthers are brave and black,
Then, all modesty aside,
We’re a perfect match.
Freedom is everywhere
And we're living happily ever after
This is not science fiction – it is now.
The Russians got into the Free Market
And Gregori's labour is worth 50 times less
Than under that nasty communism
He's a dead red
Just give him another 5 years
and his body will have freed his soul.
10 and 13 year old girls
Are skipping along the streets of Kings Cross
Not free exactly but inexpensive
£20 a fuck in a back seat or side street
Not a bad deal - riding on the backs of
6 year old girls in Thailand
Free from HIV - that is what
Civilised white western gentlemen say
Who practice safe sex with children.
When you live up in the sky
On the enth floor of a concrete block
You should think you own the world
Instead of being the ungrateful bitch
Who cries in the park
When she feels the grass under her feet
Hears bird song and whispering trees
Since she became a freebird, skylark.
Nobody marches for freedom now
They walk to celebrate
Performing non-traditional tricks
Like being transgendered
Fancy names for men pretending - they're not
And body sculpting women who used to
Slash - but they're body beautiful now
Freed of the pain of memory.
Before freedom you made a decision
Now you take it
Pluck it out of the air
And pretend it doesn't belong to you
You freewheel across the internet
Being Al Capone or Molly Malone
Advertising your children to the paedophile brotherhood
No one knows the real you
That's assuming you do.
Communications technology puts you in touch
With Everyone - 30, white and male
Given a few exceptions
Notably not the women of the Mekong delta
The Indus valley or the Zambezi river
Or Phillipina maids in Saudi
Who've got freed into new age slavery.
While Chipka women hug their trees
You happily eat BSE as a
Statement against bygone Nazi's
Because you're free
Because you're free
Because you're free, because you're free.
Trace of silver
She was a homeopath.
There is no lasting herstory
Of her powers of healing.
She saved my arm
From a life of limp uselessness,
When the experts had long given up.
How could she have borne
Bearing eleven children.
His abandonment, her incestuous sons.
A daughter of fourteen married
Into sexual slavery to the raja
With stuck together eyes,
From too much drinking
Six daughters, three homes,
She moves between them,
Leaving a trace of silver in each.
Leaving the scent of lavender,
Leaving hearts and bodies
Made whole again.
By the touches beyond tenderness.
By the voice like bird song.
She comforts me, still