To a Suicide Bomber

You do not speak for me:
You who soak yourselves in blood
Are far from the prophet=s mantle.

You who act beyond the Book
Are far from the Word.

You do not speak for me:
You who do not know, and kill,
Murder your own soulY

You blew up a young girl.
A mother=s heart will bleed forever.
A father=s will is broken.
Because of you their world is ended.

What good have you done?

Your own wife, young,
Curses you in her sleep, her nightmare.
Your children betrayed
To a myth; they still ask for you.
Your parents dragged
Through your empty dream.
Because of you their world is ended.
You have brought not paradise
But hell: hell to all around you.
Their ghosts will rise around you,
Asking: Why? Why?

What good have you done?

Because of you, I am reviled;
Because of you, your own people suffer;
Because of you
Oppression speaks louder.
Because of you, my religion reels in shame.

Because of you, two countries lie in ruins.
Because of you, a deserted nation suffers.
Because of you, the corrupt have grown stronger.
The bigots can speak without shame.
Because of you, the good people the world over
Have no name.

With each act of your violence,
Your enemies grow stronger, harsher
More justified in killing and conquest.
Each life you take weakens your cause, turns
An indifferent world  against you.

You call yourselves holy warriors:
But you have never read the Holy Book,
Never tried to understand,
Never struggled with yourself.
You took the easy way:
And what will you say on the Day of days?
What will you say to your Lord, to
Those you killed, to your family?

What good have you done? 

It is not you who bear
The prophet=s sword; the
True sword is a word, a thought,
Touched by light, forged
In wisdom and
Relentless in love.

It is not you who wear
The prophet=s mantle but those who
Strive , armed not with bombs but with
Patience, with a Book,
High in words and deeds.

You do not speak for me
Or the sweetness of my God;

You do not speak for me.


He lies on his bed, dreaming:
Young boy, with no sleep
In his head, no toys in his hand,
And dusty feet.
When will my paradise come?

The dusty street holds no promise.
Everywhere lie ruins: his school,
One room, bombed. Three small girls
Burned instantly to death, sat
With alphabet in hand. Half a wall
Remains, mud, a few papers in the dust:
There was little before. Now, less
Than nothing.

His aunt’s apartment blown
Open to the winds, human
Habitation shook back to earth, tremors
Shaking your heart.
His cousin Ali from his tiny coffin
Still speaks to him, still jokes
About Lubna and her long nose;
Aisha, once twirling, little derwish,
Her scarf, opening like a sail
To the winds, lies next to him,
Her coffin smaller.

When will my paradise come?

He sees them. Soldiers,
Barricading human traffic, hours
Of waste, leering, scowling, hours
To kill, arrogance of
Power. Such were Roman soldiers
In this very land, and Greeks, and Persians,
And new Germans. His life has been lived
Many times before. Endless children
Have squatted, helpless, witness
As fathers were forced to bow, mothers
To open their wombs
To violent seed.

His mother scolds, runs
Her fingers through his hair,
I need bread, get off your bed
And do something
For once. Head on his hands,
Lying, he can see the sky,
Lose himself in shapes,
Drifting always away.

His father’s grave
Has no mound, just crude
Markings on an earth that
Forgets without forgiving.
His smile, stained teeth, crushed
With a rifle’s butt, are
Gone. His voice grows fainter, every day,
Drifting always away.

To remember is the struggle:
This hell was not always;
Even in exile, there were smiles,
Family, men sharing cigarettes,
And women, secrets; huddled around
Hukkahs, coffee, smoke,
Tent curtain flapping.

And before that, who knows?
What rivers flowed, what boughs overhung,
What date palms grew, and olives,
What myths, what biblical promises. Did we
Ever have a home?

When will my paradise come?

Now, even memory lies in ruins.
Our pasts have deserted us.
Our present bows its head.
Our future, over the hills, is
taken daily, plot by plot.
Our leaders are useless.
Our time is gone, long gone,
All drifted away.

There is nothing left in me.
Nothing to destroy.
All drifted away.
I am dead.

My paradise: I will come.

A Poem for Neda
(Shot by the Iranian militia during Elections in Iran)


Sweet voice,
Of freedom, unborn.

Your state totters.
A colour revolution.

Green, for life,
Of reason, faith;
Red for blood,
The price you paid.

And you have betrayed
Your colour, you
Whose voices rise
Above your people
Who cast your black sky
Over all voices;
Who hide behind
Arms and words;
Who cringe
Behind your flag.

Tears will find you out.

And you too, betray
Your colour, you who
Watch from afar,
In fear, who flirt
With freedom’s name;
Who smile unshamed
As tyrants old or new
Play your cards for you.

Tears will blind your smiles.

You who love
Your daughters, sons,
Let the green of earth be
Your colour:
Let your love give birth
To the Islam which your poets dreamed.

Let your voice, which sang
Before, of golden Persia,
In Sa’adi, Hafez, Rumi,
Now return, to sing
Our future.

Let your sweet voice
Sing from the cold earth
Of sweet democracy
Buried in its birth.
Dreaming to be

Daughter, sweet voice
Of the new Iran:


Little girl,
Where did you go?
When did your world,
Your little laugh,

You hardly had time
To grow, skipping
With playmates, on
Your slow way to school.

You were born
In your body, you
Did not choose; nor
Did your creator
Refuse your joy.

And then night fell.
The knife fell. Centuries
Of darkness fell on

They held you, screaming,
Knees apart:
Your loving aunts, all
Cutting, cutting,
Your mother’s sadness
Silent, unbending.

And now, you cannot
Love: man, woman, God.
They have torn out
Your little soul.

And they, who sanction
This, mullahs and tribesmen
Who know not what they do:
Will they answer
For the life they tore?

Little girl,
In some other world,
Will you laugh?
As before? 

Return (to India)

A woman washing her children’s clothes
By the rocks of a stream,
Eyes dark, unquestioning:
The mild reflection is her only truth.
Along the shore a young man walked,
Gazing at the nearness of sea and sky,
Dust in his image, a shadow
Sliding into vast of distance:
He is gone.

Growing from childhood,
The desperate competence of early days
Melting into adult shame;
These children who sing for their parents’ keep
Blur the face behind the proffered hand.
By the temple’s foot, I knelt,
Whispering dreams that have spoken
Their shame before into silent minds,
Carving images from unknown stone.

I dream of the dying
Gaze of a Mughal Emperor
Toward the black domes he would never see:
More foreign than the postcards,
I am here, hinne-ni.

Letter to Our Children 

Forgive us.
We have burned the earth.
We have been wasteful.
There is not much left for you,
Much of anything.
We have been aggressive.
Murderous. Mass.
The earth is torn by war.
Nuclear bombs and weapons
Which still poison your soil.
Children starve by the thousand
While we thirst for oil.
And you will starve by the million.
A handful of us are rich beyond measure.
The rest struggle, many starve.

The world is coming back in
Vengeance: the
Sun burns; the seas rise.
The flood is nearing.
Every religion has shamed itself.
The human has sunk beyond redemption.
We have made your life impossible.
We, your fallen parents.
Will you live to
Forgive us?