Samira’s poetry been featured at the New York City Poetry Festival 2018 (Short Lines reading series), National Book Month festival WWI Prose and Poetry Night, Thinking in Full Color, SOJOURN Poetry Reading, SubDrift NYC, Ledbury Poetry Festival (UK) among other platforms. She is the co-founder of Ampersand: Spoken Word Dhaka. Her poem “Between Her Legs” was the winner of a nationwide spoken-word contest in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Published poetry

  • How to Mourn the Dead: Notes from a Different Land | No Dear Magazine, New NY (2019)

  • Fire | Active Muse, Pune, India (2018)

  • How (Not) to Love a Woman With an Accent | Women’s Poetry Workshop, New York, NY (2018)

  • Three Orgasms and a Veil | Six Seasons Review, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2016)

  • Between Her Legs | UPL-Monsoonletters Anthology, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2014)

All works of poetry copyrighted to Samira Sadeque. Use without permission of the author is strictly prohibited. If you have any queries regarding publishing or re-publishing her work, please contact her here.

Unpublished/featured work here. For rough drafts, musings, follow her on tumblr.

No One Sings Lovesongs For My Countrymen

No one sings lovesongs for
my countrymen. Dhaka is a bloodshed letter
has always been;

in it mother says, child, listen
child, don’t bleed, child,
come home.

Dhaka is a broken lamp, rimming
tea-stalls behind the early hours of a dawn yawning
                         behind the men always standing by the storefronts, their hands
                                    behind their back, backs
                                               behind their dreams
                                                          behind their eyes following the road
                                                                                                                  into the

                                                                                            in it, they wait
                                                                                            for eternity,
or sometimes, the lottery.

No one sings lovesongs for
my countrymen. They are the heart still beating
in this city’s bullet-ridden body
their footsteps march
have always marched
for days, years, decades
as though it is the only language they have ever known,

Dhaka is a half-alive son, a half-done protest
like an unfinished orgasm,
maybe to give birth to Freedom,
as though it is the only language they have ever known,

                                                                                            in it, the children don’t die
                                                                                            with hammers,
                                                            or on the wrong bus,
                      or while learning how to
                      curl their palms into fists,
in it, the children grow up,
they sing

for our countrymen.

to my father who doesn't know how to read poetry

My father doesn't know how to read poetry.
So he fixes his tie instead. At 7ams,
as I scramble with words in a language
his father's generation fought to conquer,
I sit, my head hung over
paper tapes and scribbled ink,
a handwriting he's forever been disappointed in,

I write
three things, hoping they will make me unlearn love:
The Atlantic
My mother's mirror
How to start living in war zones.

And just a few feet from me
my father sits with a cup of coffee brewed to the kind of perfection that he laughingly admits he doesn't understand,
reciting verses like nursery rhymes
the newspaper spread open in front of him.
He reads
Three things, about the different ways he could lose his daughters:
Acid thrown to her face
Acid thrown to her face after rape.

So when my door unlocks and distracts
my father who doesn't know how to read poetry,
he looks up as though the sun has just risen,
he looks up at his daughters who were never sons
but are daughters nonetheless
and as my sister sits nonchalantly sipping coffee, my father
listens to her plans for the day
taking mental notes, secretly
checking off instances that might or might not be
too dangerous for her,
secretly sighing reliefs
or silencing the alarms ringing on his radar,
while pretending to laugh over
her morning jokes. She doesn't know
the war this man fights everyday
wedged between a society that is out to destroy her
and a conscience trying not to be "overprotective"
and he nods with silent "hmm" or laughs along,
while making lists on his fingertips.

And before he takes off, he slides in
with his goodbyes, a murmur
"Don't be out too late" or
"Be safe", before that disappears
in the freshness of the morning scent
and there are bite marks on my skin
because I want to stop all this madness
for a moment - just a moment -
and tell him, that I see him

The man who doesn't know how to read my poetry,
I see him and the invisible universe
he carries on his back
raising daughters
and I see how it's left track marks across his skin,
and rough edges around his eyes,
and that they aren't as invisible as the weight
he carries on his shoulders.

But he is a man who doesn't know how to read poetry.
So I go back instead
to the ink splattered across my bedroom floor,
close my eyes, and tell the Sun
to thank the man, my father
who doesn't know how to read poetry,
whose life was split across borders, the man
who once knew how to laugh with the wind
without secret alarms going off,
I tell the Sun to thank him
and to tell him that I know
I know
He may not know how to read my poetry
but he is the man who has raised daughters -
Warriors, taught them how to
navigate the unknown,
conquer the world, and he did not even need to be
the king of the world;
he just needed to be what -
from the age of three or eight or seventeen -
I knew to look up to when in search of light:

A Father.

these days, it rains. and i carry a hundred letters in me. 
i stand in the shower for longer than I used to, 
making lists of how easy it is for people
to disappear
from world maps.
the water trickles down my bare back
making river arteries that scatter
in milliseconds,
I think of one, two, eleven
women who have survived the years:
single mothers raising knights, 
captives behind bedroom doors that close in the nighttime, 
daughters who were never sons
but were daughters nonetheless,
or warriors who wear their emotions
as their armors. And it's fine.

they don't think about
disappearing from the world map
because it is not time for that yet. 
they are survivors
trudging through the globe
putting their fingerprints
on war-torn areas, 
healing the souls that break the backbone
of the universe.
and I think to myself:
millisecond. A millisecond is all it takes
to either save a life
or disappear from the map entirely.
and how brave,
that we make that choice

- to the women who choose to survive instead

aftermath: how to start living in war-zones 

Day one
I wake up with last night's fingerprints all over me, Is it over? Is it over? Is it over?

Day one (second half)
We're corpses walking around the house around Gulshan around Dhaka our shocked silence playing piano chords across the skyline. Dhaka has become a ghost city and an overused hashtag, making even the skies mourn.

Day two
hasn't begun yet, and it feels like a lifetime has passed. I lay in bed. It is 3:24am and there are spirals of fear, angst, questions - a cobweb of emotions running turnstiles on the insides of my stomach.

I've checked the lock three times this hour just in case. There is silence splattered across the city, colonizing the alleyways, the occasional rickshaw bells, that space between Mother's words as she tries to put names to her prayers for the fallen. We all read Warsan Shire's poem wondering where it hurt realizing, everywhere, everywhere. Realizing, our bodies are mere world maps punctured with war wounds and a history that refuses to stop repeating itself.

Day two (second half)
Today is the first time I've left home, my hair smells of unslept nights, the shopkeeper sighs before I can even greet him and right there - I see it: How we became, overnight, a people who sigh before they can breathe, who sigh to mark their existence, a people of despair.

We sit around Iftar, trying to unlearn the names of our very own who pulled the trigger, trying to remind ourselves it couldn't be - can't be - one of us all the while secretly asking how, where, why.

Day three
We lay in bed, you and I - half naked, half asleep our interrupted dreams falling into this space we didn't know how to name; I laughed for the first time in days trying to believe that sometimes, love was worth it. There are heroes among us, I remind myself, despite all the differences of east and west black and white your eyes and mine there are heroes among us, who light the dark. The world is an abandoned building with unlit windows and blood on the walls, but some corners have candles, I remind myself, flickering flames. That's the thing about light, even a bit of it can remove the dark. Darkness, it needs to be so loud - so desperately loud - to make its presence mattered. Light just needs to be.

Day four
Old lovers have begun writing letters, turning over the hourglass of love, making it even more difficult to trace time, But I suppose that is what grief the size of a nation does: reminds you of past loves, reminds you to repent, reminds you to love again, however impossible. The girls at the orphanage are happy. We paint henna on their skinny wrists, and they tell us twisted endings of fairy tales. We sigh with hopelessness, they raise their eyebrows with wonder. It unlocks something in me that has been buried in an abyss since Friday: Hope.

Day five
My father is an old man. He likes that I played a song for the first time since; he lies down under a ceiling fan and cries like a thunderstorm. There are unknown names and unwarranted arrests, victims behind bars, politicians on thrones, sons haven't come home, or have mysteriously turned up cold, their corpses shrouded in childlike ignorance. And amid all this we whisper with clutched hands, “Where is my city? Where is my city? Where is my city?”

Day six
It is the end of the holy month. People are wearing new clothes, but can barely cover the growing wound the size of a wasted generation. The wound rots and we eat sweetmeats in between sighing about what happened, and pretending that it might get better. The newspapers have begun replacing bold headlines with advertisements and politicians are busy laughing matters off (naturally, as "isolated events" should be). After the celebrations, we stay up, locking and relocking the front door and kitchen windows before heading to cave into our forced insomnia - all over again.

Day seven.
It is still dark outside.

A week has passed and we have all joined hands to stare into a void so big, so piercing, so dark that we are blinded. Mother says, life as we know it has changed for three lifetimes, and TV tickers agree as we lie scattered - under ceiling fans on new and old beds in the arms of lovers our insides screaming silently:
What have we done?
What have we done?
What have we done?

defying differences

Ampersand Dhaka 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Dhaka | October 2015
Dhaka, Bangladesh
ideo: Taufiq Sufi



Performing at Subdrift NYC
October 2017

Photo: Harsh Mall/Subdrift NYC

All photography by Samira Sadeque unless otherwise stated.