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Poem: Mariam

By Bashabi Fraser

The stadium is full. The roar of voices is from a fascinated crowd.

But this is no match between players confronting

Each other in a game of active participation

Played by rules that both sides know and understand.

This is a grim sport, where one is the condemned victim –

Unheard, undefended against a mighty state that

Is all powerful, like a god, but not all merciful and compassionate.


This crowd has gathered to witness justice being done

To a woman who has dared to kill a man who was intent

On snuffing her life out in a frenzy of ownership and utter control.

She does not hear the tumult now. A silence surrounds her

As if she is floating in an underwater film where she cannot

Hear the world above the waves or feel the sun on her skin

As she has never known the warmth of its nurturing rays.


She stumbles on the flowing folds of her burqa, her hands

Tied under it behind her back, making her gait awkward

As the man behind her shoves her forward with the hard

Nozzle of his poised gun which she feels against her aching

Back. She kneels as ordered and holds her head steady,

Her mind on the little girl and her mother who are now free

From his imaginative torture, free to leave and free to grow.


She remembers the Friday revelry in another country

Where men walk to the city square to marvel and revel

In beheadings and crucifixion. She remembers reading

Of a sister being stoned somewhere by a decree

Passed by one man in a remote village where he plays god.

She knows that across the Atlantic, perhaps at this very moment,

One man sits in a chair drugged with a lethal injection


And another is hung by an executioner in a closed prison

In the name of civilisation and justice on the other side of the globe.

Is it condonable when a modern nation with a collared judge decrees

It and it occurs in a private sanctioned place, supported by the

State machine? Is this more barbaric because of the spectacle –

A public circus inviting a multitude’s gaze? She does not hear the swish of the

Sword. She does not wail, spoiling for once the sport of these joy starved men.

Pic-credit: Here 

Bashabi Fraser is a transnational writer who has lived in London, Kolkata and Darjeeling and now lives and writes in Edinburgh. She is a poet, editor, children’s writer, translator and critic. Her recent publications include Ragas & Reels (poems on migration and diaspora, 2012), Scots Beneath the Banyan Tree: Stories from Bengal (2012); From the Ganga to the Tay (an epic poem, 2009); Bengal Partition Stories: An Unclosed Chapter (2006; 2008), A Meeting of Two Minds: the Geddes Tagore Letters (2005) and Tartan & Turban (poetry collection, 2004). Bashabi is a Professor of English and Creative Writing and Joint Director of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies (ScoTs, which she has helped to establish) at Edinburgh Napier University. Bashabi is also a Royal Literary Fund Fellow based at the University of Dundee.

This piece on Cafe Dissensus is protected under Creative Commons License. Once a piece is published in Cafe Dissensus, we will retain the exclusive copyright for a period of 30 days, from the date of publication. Within this period, the piece cannot be re-published elsewhere even in an adapted and modified form.Thereafter, it must be acknowledged that the piece was first published in Cafe Dissensus. Re-publishing articles from Cafe Dissensus in other magazines and newspapers without permission will amount to copyright violation and the publisher is liable to prosecution.

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