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Translation of “23 March, 1973” by Fahmida Riaz

Tahira Naqvi translates Fahmida Riaz’s poem “23 March, 1973”, which she wrote when the rally of an opposition party was fired upon in Rawalpindi. The firing continued for four hours.


Translator’s note: On March 23, 1973, the Federal Security Force, a paramilitary force attacked a public opposition rally of Awami National Party leader led by Wali Khan at Liaquat Bagh killing a dozen ANP workers.  Wali Khan narrowly escaped the attempt.


How long had the heart been cowering

How long a silence sat upon our lips

We were afraid even to talk

How long the laughter of children weighed heavy on the ears

Doubts and fears fenced in the heart


What is this wind that suddenly blows from the west

What is this blood-spattered dust-storm suddenly rising from the soil today

Dashing its head wildly everywhere

Twisting and turning in the streets and bazaars of the city

Wrapping itself around the pedestrians, spinning

Knocking crazily on closed doors

Flying like some flag over the city


Today all my fears have abandoned me

All of a sudden dread and apprehension are erased from my heart

Today is ablaze a strange thirst for blood in my heart

I feel the desire to dance like the whirlwind


The body ravaged and smashed with grief and sorrow

Come, my fellow countrymen! Dance, dance

The dance of rage, the dance of dissipated pride

The dance of sadness and infamy, the dance of shame

Shred the garment of compromise and expediency

Come stand in the pouring deluge of your tears

Wave these hesitating arms in the air

Let the body swirl in the vortex of dance


When we twirl in dance from city to city

Group after group will spin in currents


Let the body and soul dance, mind and voice dance

The blood in every vein of my body roils today



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