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The Lady of Kandahar

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The Lady of Kandahar

Composed after watching on TV a woman in Kandahar
mourning the mangled bodies of seven of her children
killed in a U.S. air raid earlier this month.
(appeared first in Arab News, 15 November, 2001)

The Lady of Kandahar,
A spring beauty, named Bahar,
Was born under an unlucky star
In a land blighted by famine and war.

She stood shivering in the Afghan snow,
Silhouetted against the pyrotechnic glow.
She was seared to the marrow by pain,
But quite at a loss her plight to explain.

In a distant, destroyed land,
Yet more innocents slaughtered:
Scapegoats for vengeance’s clarion
To arms and endless conflict,
For Manhattan’s monstrous massacre
Of the hapless, helpless
Young and old
A rainbow of races, colors, faiths
Most trembling, some bold,
Loftily trapped in fiery twin towers
Set ablaze by darts of death,
Winging out of the blue.

All, guiltless thousands
Of humanity’s fold,
Felled by one foul swoop.  
Guiltless thousands,
Young and old,
Their lives pitilessly wrenched,
Their stories unsung, untold.  

Predator and prey
Equally with lives play,
Fighting terror with greater terror,
Avenging violence with worse violence,
Battling evil with fiercer evil,
Sowing seeds galore of deeper despair,
Causing hurt none but justice can repair.  

On Herat, Kandahar and Kabul
Whence flew away the bulbul
Day and night,
With no end in sight,
The dread sky rained random death
And flaming devices of destruction:
Whooshing cruising missiles,
Bristling cluster-bomb canisters,
Killers killing numberless numbers.  

The Lady of Kandahar,
Suddenly bereft was she
Of her seven little loves
Left lifeless and limbless
Beneath the rubble
Of a collateral mud house.  
Ambrosian roses monstrously nipped in the bud,
Sweet nightingales silenced by a thunderous thud,
Seven sinless souls put to sleep,
By smart weapons dumb as sheep.

The Lady of Kandahar,
Wending her weary way on the blasted plain,
With tears falling in torrents like autumnal rain,
Her heart heavy with grief,
Was stunned beyond belief.

She sighed and she sobbed,
For sevenfold she was robbed.
She wept and she wailed,
But nothing it availed.

Blinkered CNN obscured her fate,
And exulted over surgical strikes,
Sanitized as a video game.  
Go, tell a serpentine world
Of its forked tongue,
Of its double standards,
Of its Titanic lies,
Of atrocities perpetrated:
Children decimated,
Multitudes emaciated,
Mosques desecrated,
Homes obliterated,
Hospitals conflagrated,
Food depots eviscerated,
Towns depopulated,
Dignity humiliated,
Devastation devastated.

The Lady of Kandahar
Pined from terror and turmoil to be far.  
Her face mirroring sorrow and hope,
She sat like Patience on a monument
In the land of the free and the home of the brave,
Where Pharaohs of old bit the Afghan dust:
Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes fled,
Twice, John Bull’s steely army melted,
The super powerful Soviets left crestfallen
Their traces swept, their backs broken,
Their arrogance effervescing,
In the mist-laden, cold, craggy air.  

Unremembered in firebrand speeches,
Her tragedy the sane a lesson teaches.
Thus was born under an unlucky star
In a land blighted by famine and war,
A faded-faced beauty, named Bahar:
The Lady of Kandahar.  

Ismail Ibrahim Nawwab  © 2001
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



This poem treats of an aspect of Afghanistan’s humanitarian tragedy, which went largely under reported by the Western media.  “The Lady of Kandahar” was first published Thursday, 15 November 2001 in Arab News, which gave it a whole page.  Since then it has been read by thousands of people in various parts of the world as the poem has been republished in Britain, the United States, Pakistan and elsewhere.  It has also been posted on several websites worldwide.  

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