When She Asks Me Not to Speak

At the June Justice Luncheon, "Renewing the Campaign Against Torture," Crystal Keshawarz, the Muslim respondent, shared this poem she wrote about her familial and personal experience with torture. 


image1.JPGWhen she asks me not to speak
I remember memories I never had
I have visions of things I've not seen
Grandfather, prison, torture, disappearance
Great uncle imprisoned, tortured, assassinated
The uncle I never knew, a child of 16
Disappeared off the street
When she asks me not to speak

I see my mother arrested, interrogated 
I see her preparing for her own execution
Resigned to the fate of a revolutionary
I see my uncle crossing the most dangerous 
Battlefields of Kashmir for a chance at life
I see my grandmother walking with 
Tattered clothes through winding 
Mountain passes, a young widow at 35
When she asks me not to speak 
I wonder why my mother doesn't hear
My ancestors' voices screaming 
From beyond the veil, 
Hands beating at their chests 
Spirits in distress as they declare-
"Isn't that why we gave our last breaths?
Isn't that why our bones are now earth,
And our atoms are now stardust?
To speak freely, live freely, breathe freely- 
Isn't that why you broke the earth in half with broken feet?"
So you see dear mother, 
It is not for unheavy reasons that I speak.
I speak because I am the manifested hope, 
The unrealized dreams of those who came before me;
When I speak my ancestors speak, 
And they remind me not to let them die in vain.

Showing 2 reactions

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  • Luis Garcia Ayvens
    commented 2017-10-17 21:44:03 -0700
    Remembering. reliving the intergenerational trauma experienced in the here and now; being the same for Mexican American/Chicana/os and not in vain for either communities. Tlazohcamati
  • Luis Garcia Ayvens
    commented 2017-08-05 01:27:55 -0700
    Beautiful, heartfelt, visionary poem of resistance, that is not in vain. As a Prior Sovereignm, Xicano/ Mexican American, this poem stirred me to keep on keeping on! We must continue to respect each other’s ethnicity and some how help too, our white ethnic brothers and sisters to learn to respect their own ethnicities. We must all learn to live in harmony, mutual respect in interdependent ways.