Words for Freedom

Words for Freedom

Freedom from Torture’s online literary festival explores the theme of Resilience. The festival runs this week (24-26 November) and includes special readings, performances and discussions from a host of famous actors, authors and poets – alongside survivors of torture. Concurrent with the festival, FFT launched an inaugural poetry competition. Aesthetica was on the panel for the 2020 Competition, judging works alongside Daljit Nagra, Ian McMillan, Inua Ellams and Imtiaz Dharker. The winner of the competition has been announced as Brian Docherty, with Broken Wind.

(after Barley Fields on the Other Side of the Mountain, 2017) 

I do not understand why you English 
find the name of my home village amusing. 

It would take too long to explain 
all of the meanings in my native tongue. 

Tibet, I am from Tibet; yes, I grew up 
in Nepal like many of my compatriots. 

You have heard of the Dalai Lama? 
Yes, our leader, living in exile in Nepal. 

Because the Chinese captured Tibet in 1950, 
claiming we have always been part of China. 

About as true as Mexico being part of USA, 
or Georgia being a province of Russia. 

Anyway, our wind is broken by the mountain, 
no, not Everest, K2, or Kanchenjunga, 

but the one China has built around us. 
Most days you cannot see it, unless trucks 

full of soldiers come and take our fathers 
and brothers away for re-education.

Some never return, and the wind snatches 
their words away. And meanwhile, the barley 

in our fields must be harvested, no matter 
the weather, wind or sun, both, or neither. 

We never know how far our words will be 
carried, but they will never break our breath.

The Resilience Readings run 24-26 November. For more information, click here.

Image Credit: Gohar Dashti, Untitled from the series Home, 2017. 120cm x 80cm. Courtesy of the artist. (Originally featured in Aesthetica Issue 92).