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WOMAN AND WALL

English-language poem by international authors (14–18), judged by poet Raymond Antrobus

 

Runner-up

"Woman and Wall" by Mohammed Issiakhem

Looking across the tired land, I wonder when my heart dissolved.

I wonder when my bones got a little too heavy

I wonder when my hands started shaking and then just never stopped.

When did it happen, when did it all happen?

It doesn't really matter after all. 

The world happens to us and in the end I am left,

One part wall, one part woman,

less part wife, more part mother, 

and one part corpse.

 

 

My children do not understand. They should never understand.

The cracks in my face and my resolve are things to be hidden away

I am weak and ashamed. But I am a woman. 

I do not let them see the red soil. I will not let their hearts dissolve.

It doesn’t really matter after all. 

Soon enough, the world will happen to my daughter and she will be left;

One part wall, one part woman,

less part wife, more part mother, 

and one part corpse.

 

 

Still, my hands shake.

So I hide them away

Under the layers of fabric and shrapnel.

The wall behind me and the wall inside me are crumbling

They have always been crumbling. 

Was there a time they held strong,

And protected the absurd softness of undissolved hearts?

It doesn’t really matter after all.

I am black and blue and fading and the world is still happening to me.

 

 

Looking across the tired land, I wonder how I let my heart dissolve. 

I wonder how I let life happen to me so violently.

I wonder and I wonder and I cannot cry.

Instead I look away, and hide my shaking hands in burnt fabric.

How did I become this thing?

This Woman and Wall.

It doesn’t really matter after all.

The world happens to us and in the end I am left,

One part wall, one part woman

less part wife, more part mother 

and one part corpse.

On "Woman and Wall", judge Raymond Antrobus said:

“This is a skilled dramatic monologue poem that feels believable and unforced. The poet’s use of the same title as the painting felt earned with lines like 'The world happens to us and in the end I am left, / One part wall, one part woman /less part wife, more part mother, / and one part corpse.' The poet gives us multiple dimensions to the speaker, thereby managing to avoid the cliché of the victimised woman, tormented by war. The speaker of the poem is victimised, but by stating and repeating the nouns 'wall', 'woman', 'mother', 'wife', we know she is more than any clichéd image of a walking 'corpse'. This poem is in the hands of a skilled and emotionally intelligent young poet. She must keep writing!”

The Barjeel Poetry Prize celebrates poetry, in Arabic and English, that opens a worldwide conversation with 20 selected Arab artworks from the Barjeel Art Foundation. This is one of the 12 poems that won first and second place in the inaugural Barjeel Poetry Prize 2020, judged by distinguished poets. Click here for more information about the Prize at Barjeel Art Foundation's website.

Contributor
Shiza Ronald Khokhar

Shiza Ronald Khokhar is a 17-year-old student at Kent College in Dubai who was born in Pakistan. Literature and reading has always been a large part of her life and recently she has begun exploring the world of poetry, and so far, it has been a marvelous experience.

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Shiza Ronald Khokhar <span style="caret-color: #555555; color: #555555; font-family: adelle-sans, sans-serif;">is a 17-year-old student at Kent College in Dubai who was born in Pakistan. Literature and reading has always been a large part of her life and recently she has begun exploring the world of poetry, and so far, it has been a marvelous experience.</span>

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