Tongue of the Hidden

By | 15 September 2022

She reads Tongue of the Hidden,
poems from the Divan,
at night, while locked up
with her infant daughter.
Guards patrol the corridors,
flash torches at all hours,
to appease their boredom
they mock the imprisoned.

She reads Tongue of the Hidden.
The women come to her now
in the walled quadrangle
where the inmates assemble
while their children run in circles.
‘Read to us,’ the women plead.
‘Relieve our thirst,
help kill the hours.’

She reads Tongue of the Hidden.
The walls have been breached,
a patch of sky is singing.
The women are weeping.
The verses release a chorus
of curbed voices,
lift the veil from their torment,
their tales of violation.

‘In our homelands,’
they tell their jailers,
‘we were held hostage.
They dumped us in the snow,
left us for dead, naked.
We came to you for help,
but you ignored our pleas,
walled us in prisons.’

She reads Tongue of the Hidden.
We come to her now
from all corners of the city,
follow procedure: electronic scans,
possessions in lockers.
The quadrangle is a rose garden,
the thorns wrapped in fragrance.
We draw the scent in — and listen.

On her release we bring wine,
place the bottle on the table.
‘I come from that city,’ she says.
‘Shiraz.’ Home to Hafiz,
the Wine-bringer,
Interpreter of Mysteries,
composer of the Divan.
Her Tongue of the Hidden.

We drink to the innocent
who still count the lost hours;
to the women who still
gather in the quadrangle
while their children run in circles.
To the voices that have been stilled:
the tongues that long to unveil
the worlds of the hidden.

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