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Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

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Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby incensesmoke » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:54 pm

I am curious what others think makes this a great or not so great "published" poem by Imtiaz Dharker.


The right word



Outside the door,

lurking in the shadows,

is a terrorist.



Is that the wrong description?

Outside that door,

taking shelter in the shadows,

is a freedom fighter.



I haven't got this right .

Outside, waiting in the shadows,

is a hostile militant.



Are words no more

than waving, wavering flags?

Outside your door,

watchful in the shadows,

is a guerrilla warrior.



God help me.

Outside, defying every shadow,

stands a martyr.

I saw his face.







No words can help me now.

Just outside the door,

lost in shadows,

is a child who looks like mine.



One word for you.

Outside my door,

his hand too steady,

his eyes too hard

is a boy who looks like your son, too.



I open the door.

Come in, I say.

Come in and eat with us.



The child steps in

and carefully, at my door,

takes off his shoes.
Pace is only going as fast as you can slowly.

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Re: Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby thumper » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:44 pm

I think it is exceptional writing and quite clever as it can be read on many levels. Book vs cover or fear of PC terminology....either way it works well.
"Everybody loves you when you're six feet underground"---John Lennon

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Re: Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby incensesmoke » Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:47 pm

Did you get the last two Stanzas? I'm dense.
Pace is only going as fast as you can slowly.

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Re: Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby thumper » Fri Mar 18, 2011 11:30 pm

Maybe not so dense....the way I look at it, it can be read on at least 2 or 3 different slants...depending on your take. My favorite one is that the poet is assuming this kid who is different in color, nature, may be a terrorist, but he's standing by the saint that look like (is) her child. So she asks this kid to come in, eat with us, and he takes off his shoes before entering, which in many cultures is to show the utmost in respect for where someone else lives.
"Everybody loves you when you're six feet underground"---John Lennon

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Re: Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby Akira » Wed Apr 06, 2011 4:05 am

It's quantum physics and language theory.

Something is outside his door? What is it?

Well, that depends. Are things merely what they are? Or are they what we label them?

From Black Steel in the Midnight Hour, by Public Enemy, a song about a man imprisoned for refusing a draft summons:

Cold sweatin' as I dwell in my cell
How long has it been?
They got me sittin' in the state pen
I gotta get out - but that thought was thought before
I contemplated a plan on the cell floor
I'm not a fugitive on the run
But a brother like me begun - to be another one


Treat someone as criminal and perhaps they become a criminal.

Look at someone like a reject, talk to them like one, and perhaps they begin to feel and act like a reject.

In quantum physics, as my limited understanding understands it, we can never know the precise details of particles because there is an inherent level of randomness in the definable and measurable attributes: measure their position, and the speed varies, measure the speed and the position varies; things that should be locked in a system magically "tunnel" their way out. Things both are and aren't until fixed by deterministic observation. The more we observe, the more we influence.

Obviously, in real life, sometimes things just are, and how we treat them or label them will do little to change that (for better or for worse... kindness generally won't change a serial killer and 27 years of captivity as a political prisoner didn't break Nelson Mandela); but, often we are influenced by the web of language and non-verbal communication that we exist in.

The Narrator searches for the "right word" (the title of the poem, and repeated within) but that itself is a play on words: there is no "right" word because the word he uses will influence what the thing in the shadows is/becomes -- thus they are all "right" words, and, simultaneously, all wrong words. Each choice, and thing in the shadows itself, exists almost in a state of quantum uncertainty, awaiting the determining action of the observer (the Narrator).

But the message is that the "right word" he is ultimate seeking is not the most accurate word -- since they are all, or perhaps more accurately they all can be, "accurate" since they will all influence the result to conform -- but instead, right-ness is in the intention and purpose -- the right word is the right word, the one that will lead to the best result, which the poem posits is the peaceful and humanizing result:

I open the door.
Come in, I say.
Come in and eat with us.

The child steps in
and carefully, at my door,
takes off his shoes.


Thus, we could infer alternate endings including him screaming "look! terrorist!" and being knifed. In that case, the right word arguably was both the Right Word and the Wrong Word at the same time.
Lime and limpid green; a second scene,
A fight between the blue you once knew.

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Re: Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby Natasha » Thu Apr 07, 2011 10:12 pm

I think I might have read this differently.

I looked at it as the N talking about the same person at the door...showing how different words, different labels, different points of view of the person changed the emotion about and understanding of that person.

First unknown, the person is a terrorist with bad intention (we fear the unknown, dark/shadows signify fear etc)

Then as the words/descriptions change (freedom fighter, guerilla, warrior, martyr, child) the emotion changes...the original fear is replaced by empathy, wonder, admiration, parental love....

Perhaps akin to the sentiment that every bad man/woman was once someone's innocent child? Even the terrorist was loved by someone, the terrorist is still someone's child.
Our fingerprints do not fade from the lives we touch

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Re: Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby emily » Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:28 pm

incensesmoke wrote:I am curious what others think makes this a great or not so great "published" poem by Imtiaz Dharker.


The right word

..............

The child steps in

and carefully, at my door,

takes off his shoes.



what an awesome poem!

...what to call the person at the door...what would be the right word to call him.....
a terrorist? some bum? someone...different than me? (door stays closed)
no. this person could be my child, could be mine, could be yours, is like ours

and the name we give reciprocates in kind

very cool :mrgreen:

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Re: Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby alienated01 » Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:34 pm

Brilliantly written indeed, as I always have for years discussed with myself that 'a knock on a door, 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' perhaps? so on reading further this beautiful post I was really pleased with all it conveyed, so thank you the author and keep writing.

alienated01

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Re: Imtiaz Dharker Poem discussion

Postby JanSand » Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:43 am

The poem is not about what is outside the door but what is inside the mind of the person in the house and how reality finally informs that person. We live our lives with probabilities and resolutions and this poem nicely describes that.

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