Shazea Quraishi is a Pakistani-born Canadian poet and translator whose poems have appeared in UK and US publications including The Financial Times, The Guardian, Modern Poetry in Translation and Poetry Review. Her collection The Art of Scratching was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2015, and she is adapting her chapbook ‘The Courtesans Reply’ as a play. In 2015, she was the recipient of a Brooklease Grant from the Royal Society of Literature, and an Artists International Development Fund award. She teaches with The Poetry School and Translators in Schools, and is an artist in residence with Living Words. Her website is here.
Here is one of her fabulous poems suitable for young people:
You may have heard of me
My father was a bear.
He carried me through forest, sky
and over frozen sea. At night
I lay along his back
wrapped in fur and heat. And while I slept, he ran,
never stopping to rest, never letting me fall.
He showed me how to be careful as stone,
sharp as thorn and quick as weather.
When he hunted alone
he’d leave me somewhere safe, high up a tree
or deep within a cave.
And then a day went on…
he didn’t come.
I looked and looked for him.
The seasons changed and changed again.
Sleep became my friend. It even brought my father back.
The dark was like his fur,
the sea’s breathing echoed his breathing.
I left home behind, an empty skin.
Alone, I walked taller, balanced better.
So I came to the gates of this city –
tall, black gates with teeth.
Here you find me, keeping my mouth small,
hiding pointed teeth and telling stories,
concealing their truth as I conceal
the thick black fur on my back.
© Shazea Quraishi
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