Ballad for Kashmir

Jhilmil Breckenridge

Wild clouds over Shankaracharya Temple
Wild clouds over Shankaracharya Temple
Photo Credit: Nusrat Durrani.

I hear stories of an ancient land so pure.
I see photographs of bluer than blue skies
over a lake of molten gold.

I drink kahwa flavoured with almond and saffron
and smear honey, sweetened by bees from the valley,
my hips swaying in a crewel work on wool skirt.

I hear songs of freedom, I know people who fled.
The muezzin prays for peace over bloodstains and tears
while children still play under walnut trees.

Clouds gather to pray at Shankaracharya Temple
on a mountain dipping its toes into water
while empty shikaras speak of visiting ghosts.

Mothers whose eyes never tire, looking over the sunset
for long lost sons; wives who still lay out their husband’s
slippers on a carpet with frayed edges.

Postmen deliver letters to addresses long abandoned;
a generation of elders, eyes of agate, gnarled fingers, brew tea
surrounded by memories of children killed, daughters raped.

I write for all people who live in war.
I write for the age of innocence to return.
I write for soft rain to wash away sin.

I write for the return to reason.
I write for peace to flutter gently through groves
of apricot, almond, apple and walnut.

Feel the pain. Hear the refrain. Smell the emptiness.
This is now. This is now. This is not in the pages
of a fading history text. This is now. This is now.


Jhilmil Breckenridge is a poet, writer and activist. Her work has appeared in Halo Lit magazine, Pankhearst,  and many other literary journals. She is Editor for the woman inc and Fiction Editor for Open Road Review. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and will be embarking on a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Central Lancashire next spring.  She tweets at @jhilmilspirit

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