Adisha Shaikh

War Cries and Lullabies

I am born on a bed of ashes;
Ashes of women before me,
Women who were set on fire, labelled witches,
For dowry. In the name of Sati.
My first breath is an act of vengeance
For all the suffocation endured by women
For eternal centuries;
Within four walls,
Behind the customary veil.
My first cry is an ode to the women
Whose voices were doused, tongues cut,
Lips stitched shut.
My first steps are dedicated to those
Whose feet were bound by the weight
Of their own womanhood.

The stains of crimson on my hands:
Mistake them not for henna.
They are ghostly memorials of the red stains
Left on thirsty rocks and cracked lands
By heels split open, of mothers walking
Unending trails for a pail of water.

The woeful tears cried in solitude
Will be the kohl rimming my eyes,
Kohl darker than the confines
Where you held them captive.
And right between those eyes,
I will wear the sun.

The mere jingle of my anklet
Will silence entire cities.
And when you ask me for a battle
I will give you war.
Undoing injustices, one at a time.

When the women can’t sleep,
Tormented by the echoes
Of their own agonized screams;
Screams from when their bodies were violated
And when their daughters were killed
And when they were made to cover up
From head to toe
Lest they be called unspeakable things.
When they can’t sleep,
I’ll sing them war cries
For lullabies.

And if I must,
I’ll burn cities to the ground
Just to watch the flames
Dance in their eyes.
And when the whole world is watching,
I’ll smear my trichion with blood
Married to the revolution.