tree lake pakistan


In this poem taken from her book Dimensions, Shahidah writes about her experience of women; birth, choice of sisters, womankind. Shahidah brings her early life in Pakistan to life for the reader.


by Shahidah Janjua

I was birthed into an intimate space

Shared by two other women.

Into the long view

Telescoping back through the years

Of many severed moments,

Dislocations of time and meaning

From there to here.

I see our intimacy

Was only a matter of geography.

Tropics and contours fixing us on a line

Bordered by nation, clan and family.


From large peasant beginnings

In sprawling fields, chasing clouds

Through the broad village maze,

To the dung laced alleyways

The origins of people dash

In downtown ghetto quarters of Lahore,

We were moulded in the same

Rich warm odour of cowpat mixture

Straw-manure – for nourishment and fire.

Welded together for breath

A sweat and labour.


Falling loose from the nipple too soon

I did not know

The meaning of my hunger

‘Til there was too much loneliness

In the world

Sitting outside the fraternities

Of feasting, drinking revelling

We were never meant to gel

Only in the sisterhood of servitude

Our time together mediated

By the father’s wants, the brother’s needs

The husband’s will, the suitor’s gaze.


I came this far with sisters who

Were not the gene connection.

Sometimes without a word link

Women small and tall,

Broad and slender, masked and unmasked.

I chose from amongst them

Companions for the journeying way

But I carry them all with me.

The razored leg, the high heeled foot

The stubbled chin,

Choosing my family

Keeping the rest of womankind in view.

Shahidah Janjua (1949 – 2020) was a poet, writer and DGR member in Ireland Europe. This poem was originally published in her book Dimensions in 2014 and is reprinted here with the kind permission of her family.

You can find out more about Shahidah’s books, writing and activism here: 


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