Imtiaz Dharker

Image by Ayesha Dharker Taylor

Poem introduction

I work with film, and I know that I can take one image and edit it ten different ways, write ten different sets of words, and make it into ten different stories. That's one of the things that I'm trying to do in the poem 'The right word'. There is just one image, but it's an image that is interpreted in different ways depending on the preconceptions that fit into each verse.

The right word

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.

from The Terrorist at My Table (Bloodaxe, 2006), © Imtiaz Dharker 2006, used by permission of the author and the publisher.


Imtiaz Dharker

Imtiaz Dharker reading from her poems

1Speech Balloon


3The Haunted House

4The Child Sings

5Postcards from god I

6Postcards from god II


8Question 1 / Question 2


10Living Space / One Breath


12This room

13Honour killing

14The right word

15Kinna sona

16A place called Battle

17How to cut a pomegranate

18Women bathing



21Leaving fingerprints


23Hand of Fatima, Hand of Miriam


25Whoever you are

26Talisman / CCTV

27The temporary face

28Dabba's dialogue <i>or</i> Tiffin-box talks

29What she said / what she said later

30What the palm reader said then

31What they think she said

32They'll say, 'She must be from another country.'

Books by Imtiaz Dharker