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Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize


Written by
Rakhshan Rizwan

Rakhshan Rizwan was born in Lahore, Pakistan and then moved to Germany where she studied Literature and New Media. She completed her M.A in British, American and Postcolonial Studies from the University of Münster and is currently a PhD candidate at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Her poems have appeared in Papercuts, Cerebration, Muse India, The Missing Slate, Postcolonial Text and elsewhere.


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There is history: one reads it in a book with silverfish,
there are evenings spent in the contemplation of history,
over a cup of jasmine tea, gazing at the mezquita,
resplendent by night—in Hotel De Conquistador, history is
diminutive crusaders with crosses on their shields in window displays,
history could take the form of houses along cobbled streets with
wide-open courtyards that gaze upon a dusky, Spanish
sky—houses that open in corridors instead of
rooms, to protect the zanana from the eyes of intrusive outsiders—
history is oriental hamams with ornate facades
and languid music, in which white Europeans
steam themselves, but history also lies
beneath the ground, it flows in the subterranean layer
of our consciousness,
It is in the way Spanish guards with their
trousers drawn to their chests—and their transceivers,
stuffed in their back pockets—shake their heads,
their eyes blazing, it is the way they refuse to let
you remove your shoes, your socks, to acknowledge
other histories and usher you out, it is the roughness of
their hands against your skin—the firmness,
of their steps, their discomfited faces, their clenched,
demeanor, it is the graze of their blue eyes,
against your brown ones, history is the fixed lines
on the conqueror’s face.

Rakhshan Rizwan is the winner of the 2015 Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize [link]. This poem is the entry she submitted for the prize. To read the winner announcement, please visit the DWL blog [link].



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