The Eternal Song | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 30, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 30, 2017


The Eternal Song

I celebrate myself—

I draw into myself all humanity 

And sing in solidarity with my sisters

A song spread across the horizons

Seamlessly interweaving the glittering shards

Of sinuous shifting images—

It is as if a magic lantern threw the nerves

In patterns across a screen:

Bold intellectual women gaze across the sundering seas

To receive the wisdom of the sages

The magic mantra of mystic mages

Beckoning to liberation from constricting chains

Leading them to the Promised Land, free of pain—

“Ring out old things, Ring in the new

Discard all inhibitions, and dance in the dew”

But patriarchal power still circulates 

Like old wine in new bottles—

The mythical land recedes with each advance

Like a mirage in the desert

And dreamers wander lost 

In the intoxicant induced world of illusion

Borrowed metaphors dictate the need for whiteness

To the fair and lovely damsel

Waiting for her knight in shining armor,

While the dancing body of the more daring beauty

Confidently adorns billboards and buses

And magazines venerate the glittering goddess

Worshipped at the altar of freedom and progress:

“Attractive eye candy” says the wolf whistling chauvinist

Gazing at sashaying forms on revolving ramps;

“Brainless featherheads” snorts the disgusted feminist

Staring in disgust at the glittering figures

Arrayed to display the eternal weapons 

Of the world of fashion and beauty

“Seductive and sexy” says the envious housewife

Stuck in the world of dusters and dishes;

But night brings its own reality

To tired faces in empty hotel rooms

When the make-up mask is bared

And whispered stories are shared

By women uncertain and scared

Of market rates and marriage rites

Botox fillers and bitter fights—

See-saw desires, despair-laden discourses

Of dazzling denizens of a deceptive domain

Sung, celebrated, used, abused

And confused.


But who are those shadowy figures seen in the distance?

The draped invisible veiled women;

Convention dictates that they be

Constantly derided, discussed and dismissed

As repressed, humiliated and oppressed

Static and silent, backward and depressed

Always represented and never self-expressed—

Where is their voice in poem, and song?

Are all tunes the same? Do all words tell the same story?

Whose gaze privileges? Who speaks the language of power?

Whose discourse is dominant? Who decides to bestow

The defining epithets on female forms—

'Smoldering' and 'Fiery'

'Dull' and 'Dreary'?

A foreign tongue it is that speaks

A manacled metaphor it is that seeks

To forever fit square pegs in round holes. 

My voice it is that breaks

That endless silence with an eternal song

I need no borrowed feathers to dress me

Or an alien language to express me

I resist reductive generalizations

Poetry pours from the pores of my being

Mesmerized by the mystic melodious music

I sing of ageless sexless souls

Flood engulfed in God's gaze

Self surrendered in the song of God's beauty.

Batool Sarwar is Associate Professor of English at the 

University of Dhaka.

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