Annsfire, Anderson and Wilkinson

The Covered Woman


Pulsating with bodies,

the street is dangerously alive,

Libya, Syria, Yemen, countries where

muscular, young men

make their way through teargas, rubber bullets

and live ammunition.


The people rise up,

or half the people rise up.


But where are the other half?


Confined to interior rooms,

pacing cages like exotic animals

whose unleashed power could

take down the entire social order?


Being kept safe?


A virtual impossibility because

a woman is never safe,

not in raging streets

but especially not

in the captivity of her home.


In Afghanistan,

small hands weave intricate rugs,

the weavers speak in hushed voices,

create, magnificent art sold

for the profit of the men

who possess them.


The women who tried

to go to school

had acid thrown in their faces,

some were blinded, all disfigured,

yet afterwards, every one of them

vowed to fight on.


In Iran the women are not allowed to sing,

In Saudi Arabia they cannot drive

and if the heels of their shoes

click too loudly on polished surfaces

they are subject to arrest.


From beneath her burqa, her hijab, her chador,

the covered woman watches me

with the one part of her body

always permitted public view,

her eyes.


They convey a world beyond the limits

of my understanding.


She says:

You speak to me of liberty

I only see your scars.


The “choices” you’ve been given,

bloody tokens for their wars.


When your glass ceilings all lie broken

and all your doors swing open

let every hair on your proud head

stand naked in the sun.


But don’t preach to me of freedom

until your battle’s won.

Joan Annsfire is a librarian, a writer and a long time political activist who lives in Berkeley California.  Her poetry, short stories and non-fiction pieces have appeared in various literary magazines and web sites including previously in Poet’s Basement on Counterpunch.  In her blog, lavenderjoan: http://www.lavenderjoan.blogspot.com/ the personal meets the political.


(On the first day of its promised offensive, the Taliban used a

12-year-old suicide bomber.)


After reading the news about the 12-year-old

Boy – suicide bomber kicking off the spring offensive,

I discovered an interview with Donald Hall,

Who began to write poetry at the same age,

Finding an explosion for words.


I stare around the classroom at my soccer team

Of 12-year-old players gathered at a pizza party –

Unknotted school ties, T-shirts, chanting, laughing

Waiting for their bodies to deliver the velocity

Of a goal that corners the market on that diving man

Header that drives the ball into the net with power.


Here in this room with Time magazine covers from history,

Posters of JFK and Martin Luther King, computers lining

The western wall with windows to Lookout Mountain,

The shredded body of the boy, the suicide bomber, lives

Never to take a direct kick at Henry, our goalie,

Or climb a tree house to read a book about Western England.


I would like to face off with his Taliban coach

And schedule games after a guitar concert

When snow melts through the Afghan mountains

And poppies bloom remembrance along the pitch

Of football fields lined for 12-and-under teams

From Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Libya.

Kemmer Anderson, a former goalie at Davidson College, coaches soccer in Tennessee.

Polished October





in the month

that ends with all saints.


they walk


they talk

from the years

since baptism waits.




of those killed

in the dreams

that wake their dead. 

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at counterpunchpoetry@gmail.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work).  Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where.  For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights.  Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx).  Expect a response within one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and suggestions, visit CrowVoiceJournal.blogspot.com and check the links on the top right. Thanks!

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