warriors + poets

by Aqeela Naqvi

once, there walked amongst us warriors.

we caught our breath when we witnessed
the unyielding strength of their brows.
we felt our hearts marked when we met
the noble glint of their gaze.
we fell to our knees as before our very eyes,
the magnificence of lions stepped into the fray.

once, there breathed amongst us poets.

what was dead in us began to blossom
when we drank the elixir of life dripping in their words.
what was fettered in us broke free
when they taught us to raise our hands in prayer.
what was long silent in us began to sing,
as they whispered to us the secrets of the sky.

once, we walked alongside warriors,
responding to the oppressed’s battle cry:

“…pressed between two choices: the sword and humiliation –
wa hayhaat minna thilla! far from us is humiliation!”

once, we breathed the breath of poets,
abandoning slumber for the stillness of night:

“You are my haven when the wide courses fail to carry me,
and when the earth, despite its width, becomes too narrow to bear me…”

once, we were not just men or women.

we were warrior spirits
who did not bend our heads in the face of billowing darkness.
we were wordsmiths and poets
who did not shrink from, but harnessed the storm –
the sharpness of lightning,
the wildness of the wind,
the fury of the rising ocean’s roar.


we were disciples
of resistance and love.
of passion and beauty.
monsoons rising to meet the wildfire’s flame.

we were of the unbowed leaders of men;
the ever-bowed servants of the Divine.

we were the students of warriors.
we were the apprentices of poets.

and of them – once more –
we must have the courage
to become.