Woman and Salt

By Sara Shagufta Urdu Translation by Rukhsana Ahmad
There are many types of respectability
The veil, a slap, wheat
Stakes of imprisonment are hammered into the coffin of respectability

From house to pavement we own nothing
Respectability ahs to do with how we manage
Respectability is the spear used to brand us
The selvedge of respectability begins on our tongues
If someone tastes the salt of our bodies at night
For a lifetime we become tasteless bread
Strange market this
Were even the dyer has no colors
The kites on the palm of space are dying

I deliver babies in imprisonment
The earth should be playful for legitimate offspring
Because you deliver children in fear today you have no pedigree
You are known by the name of one wall of your body

How you conduct yourself has been made central to your status
A beautiful gait
A false smile chiselled on your lips
You haven’t wept for years
Is that what a mother is like?

Why have your children turned pale
which tribe of mothers do you belong to
of rape, of imprisonment, of a divided body
or of daughters bricked up alive.
Your daughters in the streets
Knead hunger with their own blood
And eat their own flesh.
Which of your eyes are these
How many times has the wall of your house been bricked up
You let may daughter be my name
But your son’s name is the currency of the time

Today, your daughter tells her own daughters
I shall brand my daughter’s tongue
Blood-spitting woman is not a metal
Is not looking for bangles to steal
A battleground my courage, a spark my desire

We were born wearing shrouds round our heads
Not born wearing rings
Which you might steal.