Inverse Journal presents these haunting verses by emerging Nigerian poet Eniola Abdulroqeeb Arówólò, in a poem that attempts to seek distance from the lingering grief caused by death. In the poem, the young poet and Mass Communications student reveals the passing of his friend “who committed suicide this year”, the death of his “grandmother in 2017” and “the gruesome extrajudicial killing of Chibok girls from the Eastern part of Nigeria by Boko Haram.” As the poet states, “Elegy in which I am bidding everything adieu” is a poem “of many grievances, one I may not do away with for years.”
Dr. Asima Hassan brings us a touching poem that addresses the loss of life as it relates to the bond between a mother and a child. Perhaps the most difficult topic to explore through any artform, yet central to Picasso’s “Guernica”, Dr. Hassan’s poem verbalizes the unspeakable to give a contour to unfathomable grief.
Set upon a dark stage that Kashmir has invariably become, Sadam Hussain presents four poems that read like four acts of a macabre tragedy—except there is no curtain call and the curtains are never drawn, there where hell has no end and paradise no beginning.
On World Mental Health Day, Saba Zahoor presents a series of verses that venture into the center of struggles and experiences that remain difficult to communicate yet persist in the lives of millions throughout our human world.
When Robert Hirschfield was 37 years old, his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Over the years he became her caregiver and eventually began a poetry project to honor her memory. Now at 82 years of age, the poet and journalist, world traveler and resident of New York, presents four such poems from an entire series that bear witness—through poetic remembrance—to his mother’s struggle. The four poems—that are part of a series currently in its sixth year—are featured here with New York-based contemporary artist Judith Lodge’s work.
Young Kashmiri poet Zabirah Fazili returns with a timely ode to the perseverance of the Palestinian people at a difficult time made worse by an army of incursions. In expressing solidarity, her verses travel from the streets of Kashmir to the tear-gassed steps of a besieged mosque that has become a site of death, horror and injury in the holiest of months. The tenacity of these verses is a testament to the determination that characterizes two peoples, two lands and two struggles, with the poet seeing both as one.
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 August 5, 2019, Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution were revoked to enforce the status of Union Territory on the state of Jammu and Kashmir without democratic consent from the Kashmiri people. As a measure to quell expected upheaval, the internet, TV channels, mobile telephony, landlines, press, public transport and air travel were taken out of circulation by government order while more Indian troops were moved into the Himalayan territory. In the pitch drop silence of indefinite siege, a poet wrote from his memory to “her heart” not knowing when his message would get across, while even houses from adjacent neighborhoods were left without communication with one another. This poem by Khawar Khan Achakzai is a reminder-in-verse of that time still fresh in the collective memory of Kashmir and its peoples, and a testament to the fact that no lockdown, siege or territory-wide curfew can keep a longing Kashmiri heart from beating.
Saba Zahoor’s poem on Kashmir presents her place of origin as existing outside of a human-made time. Through her verses, the poet traverses multiple histories and addresses Kashmir as a being, an entity that has endured the heavy burdens of history. In that, Kashmir is a woman, an old woman who does not break, but withers slowly into inexistence or unbeing.
From the present time and within the terrain of scattered memory, artist Jagdeep Raina presents a poem that digs into a history of Kashmir beyond epochs, eras, regimes, rules, governorates, kingdoms and states. It is past all these that Raina retrieves a poetic voice, one that eludes fragmented human-made time and the constructs of its history, to give way to a Kashmiri being still on an unending quest. Fragmented time, fragmented geographies, fragmented histories, and the burdens they unleash on the present are in direct contrast with the continuity that these verses lend to the poetic voice of such a Kashmiri being as it traverses centuries and generations.
A young and avid writer of ghazals, Sameem Wani shares two of his latest from a wider collection. These two arrive in the English language, yet have Kashmir inscribed deep within their melancholy.
Omair Bhat presents his poem “If It Were for Evenings to Search for the Lost Boys” that binds the present time with the past in a continuum of killing and disappearance that has exasperated even Kashmir’s evenings into screaming out the name of freedom. Featured earlier in our poetry special “Verses of Lament and Dissent – First Issue.”
Traversing multiple geographies, actual and digital, Yuan Changming brings us five poems in Chinese, with translations in English made by the poet himself. In conjunction, these five communicate a journey from the village to the city and back, from the digital stratosphere to landscapes of our natural world, from the East to the West and vice versa, bringing together verses that ultimately shape a journey into memory while offering a pause on the sidelines of recollection.
Young poet Samuel Junior Irusota from the Edo State of Nigeria brings us a haunting poem burdened by death, destruction, perseverance, hope and the lack thereof. This poem was originally published as part of our international selection of poetry titled “Verses of Lament and Dissent — First Issue.”