‘Worse than the Taliban’ New law rolls back rights for Afghan women’.

                          The Guardian, March 31st 2009


Alan, Nikki, Kev and Pam, last day of the month,

lifting lids on cardboard boxes behind the scenes

at the museum stores. Shelf after shelf.


What will work will free imagination?

Or will trap the poets in clichés.

20 objects for 7 poets to choose the one

that will encapsulate the spirit

of their performance; liberate, enhance; let them soar.


Woman in a burkha walking through a bazaar in Kabul

I give you a gold-high heeled shoe

with pointed gold mesh toe. For your president

who rushed through a law that legalises rape in marriage;

bans you leaving home without your husband’s permission,

I unsheathe this sword from its crocodile-skin scabbard.

Yes, for Hamid Karzai I unleash the crocodile;

 a whole ravenous unwashed pack of crocodiles.


I give you the flaunt of a feathered red fan, 

a travel poster of possibilities; the Chinese mask;

the hand-mirror with a photograph on the back,

of you, your daughters, flaunting free smiles.


For your books they’ve burnt; for your education

they’ve stamped on I give you this skull

with detachable cranium: an open mind.


For the licensed rapes, I give you

this seemingly innocuous bird-scarer;

this deceptively benign wooden butter pat.

I furnish you with this knife; that sword,

not forgetting the crocodile jaw/s.


I give you our fantasy ceramic tree  under glass

though glass uplifted allows anything to be

Especially when you wear the shaman’s tunic;

hear Kevin’s goldfinch poem; trace the mysterious

undying roses twined up Nikki’s arm,

and how Alan waxes wise, encyclopediac.




We lift lids on boxes whose labels don’t

do the contents justice. Four of us

(you included) will play finger-piano, zither,

one-sided accordion and drum. Not musical,

I’ll settle for the clack of the shaman’s heart-shaped runes.


Woman walking in a bazaar in Kabul.

Each item of this bazaar we give to you,

objects of our, other people’s heritage

to place you properly in your own.



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