The right word

Outside the door,
lurking in the shadows,
is a terrorist.

Is that the wrong description?
Outside that door,
taking shelter in the shadows,
is a freedom-fighter.

I haven't got this right.
Outside, waiting in the shadows
is a hostile militant

Are words no more
than waving, wavering flags?

Outside your door,
watchful in the shadows,
is a guerrilla warrior

God help me.
Outside, defying every shadow,
stands a martyr.
saw his face.

No words can help me now.
Just outside the door,
lost in shadows,
is a child who looks like mine.

© Imtiaz Dharker, from The terrorist at my table (Bloodaxe Books, 2006)

from The terrorist at my table
by Imtiaz Dharker
(Bloodaxe Books, 2006)

Imtiaz Dharker

Imtiaz Dharker grew up a Muslim Calvinist in a Lahori household in Glasgow, was adopted by India and married into Wales. She is an accomplished artist and documentary film-maker, and has published six books with Bloodaxe, Postcards from god (including Purdah) (1997), I Speak for the Devil (2001), The terrorist at my table (2006), Leaving Fingerprints (2009), Over the Moon (2014) and Luck Is the Hook (2018). All her poetry collections are illustrated with her drawings, which form an integral part of the books; she is one of very few poet-artists to work in this way.

She was awarded The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry for 2014, presented to her by The Queen in spring 2015, and has also received a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Over the Moon was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2014. Her poems are on the British GCSE and A Level English syllabus, and she reads with other poets at Poetry Live! events all over the country to more than 25,000 students a year. She has had a dozen solo exhibitions of drawings in India, London, Leeds, New York and Hong Kong. She scripts and directs films, many of them for non-government organisations in India, working in the area of shelter, education and health for women and children. In 2015 she appeared on the iconic BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs. In 2019 she was appointed Chancellor of Newcastle University.