The Damage is Ours Alone – A Poem by Zabirah Fazili

Apr 14, 2021

There are no suitable words to describe or introduce Zabirah Fazili’s latest poem. Within such verses one finds an utterance that every Kashmiri mother, tending to her family, has brought to her lips—with the ringing of gunfire in the horizon or an eerie silence ushered in by the passing of daylight. That utterance is one tragically guided by an intuition that Kashmiri mothers have—a sixth sense that connects them to those who they love with devotion, as if their spirits lived within those loved ones. In interviews and testimonials by many mothers of Kashmir, when they narrate the happenings of a horror that has left an open wound in their hearts and memory, they often recall the day when trauma took shape due to a horrific event—and they refer to something odd, an ominous sign, or some glitch in their quotidian space on that fateful day of irremediable grief and pain. In her poem, the young poet captures—within that one utterance and the verses that contain it—an intuition that defies logic and resides in the presentiment of the mothers, spouses, siblings, daughters, and women of Kashmir who over decades of horrors have developed the ability to smell death in the air. That ability takes heartbreak and grief to abysmal depths where language fails to convey an understanding. It is here that Zabirah’s poetry succeeds to transmit such a heartbreak and grief through her verses because they are relatable to far too many Kashmiris confined, among other prisons, to the prison of silence.

On a cold January morning
at the break of dawn
Mother's dreams break
and she wakes up breathing heavily
and sweating
"kus taain morukh"
someone's been killed.

We all sit huddled
wondering if the dream
is an omen
or if it's only Mother's fears
speaking to her mind.
"Kus taain morukh"
Mother repeats.

At the breakfast
Mother sits unsettled
her hair hangs down
in ringlets and the sweat
on her brow glows
like the horror in her eyes.
"Kus taain morukh"
Mother repeats.

We all leave Mother
and her words
keep her company.
She bleeds before
the wounds appear.
At dusk we all return
except Abbu.
We engage with good thoughts
until mother repeats
"kus taain morukh"

And her fears come alive
at moon rise
as Abbu is brought home
in a gunny bag:
a collateral damage

no
the damage is ours alone.

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About the Contributor

Zabirah Fazili graduated from Government Women’s College (Srinagar) in 2016 and received her Master’s degree in English from University of Kashmir in 2019. Her inclination towards the study of English language and literature has shaped the author interests and instilled in her an aptitude for research and exploration of existing and contemporary literatures. Throughout her post graduate program, Zabirah actively participated in debates, seminars, and symposiums insightful of postcolonial processes and subaltern movements, classical and modern theories in literature and relevant disciplines of knowledge. A wide range of extra-curricular activities and ventures during and after the postgraduate training saw the author give voice to different hidden subject positions (identities) and articulate deliberately ignored experiences of a woman with firsthand colonial experience. Zabirah Fazili has previously published poems like "To a Half Disappearance" in Kashmir Lit and "Until My Freedom has Come" in Oracle Opinions.