Category Archives: Poetry

Those Rising Fists: A Poem on Resistance and Resilience in the Face of Depression

[Agnes Cecile]

Those Rising Fists

Like flowers blooming

from cracks in the concrete

a turbulent revolt is looming

as slowly, they rise


In the mire of the night

they close

a rose

clenching finger-petals tight

and as darkness stalks the light

they rage, they fight,

they rise

Now the storm winds they roar

and the roots dig into the core


– a dead weight almost too much to bear

as they beat against the heavy air

In defiance of demise,

in revolt, they rise

They will not wither,

in the cold or the howling winds

Even in this despair’s weather

they rise

For those rising fists

are at their strongest

and those soaring voices

at their loudest

when the arms are trembling

and the voices are shaking

but still,


they rise.

Raees Noorbhai 

When injustice is built into the framework of the order, the only way to live nobly is to live in a state of revolt. For some of us, however, this personalisation of perpetual revolt is not a choice. For many, the dawn of each day carries with it a certain darkness. The mere act of living becomes an act of defiance against the paradoxical gravity of emptiness. For while we rage against the injustice around us, confronting the cold machinery of tyranny, a struggle persists within us. To battle the dead weight of depression while seeking to dismantle the structures of oppression is to wage a war on two fronts. 

Indeed, countless words upon countless pages cannot so eloquently speak of this struggle as the patches where the paper has hardened and the ink has run. However, there is a measure of solace and redemption in the breaking of silences. To speak one’s truth is an act of resistance in a world where the existence of this internal war is too frequently erased. This poem, therefore, bears witness to the gruelling battle against depression and honours the bravery of those who continue to march onward through the night.


Oh When We Were Free: An Ode to Freedom of Thought

Freedom, Ann Fogarty

Oh when we were free
to let our thoughts roam
– throw certainty to sea
and plant musings in the mind’s loam.

Oh when we had liberty,
when we had not knotted tongues
to declare the lies of authority
that beat the air from our tired lungs.
Oh when we shunned banality,
when our brains were more than cells,
holding the prisoner of rationality
in nine circles of Dante’s Hell.
Oh, when fetters of fire failed to bind
– the heretic’s truth, under boot and fist.
When the marching orders from the mind
blasphemed bravely: Resist.

Yet unto liberation, powerless we are not,
for ours are first the fetters
and ours are first the knots.
Ours is first the apathy
that our certainty begot.

So victorious must we emerge from this internal war,
before our minds are truly free to wander once more.

Raees Noorbhai

Rebellion is a fire, sparked by the friction between a freedom which dwells deep within us, and a world which abhors it. This poem is an ode to that internal freedom – and a recognition of our power to suffocate it for fear of burning our hands. It is a song of longing, superimposed upon the passage of time, expressed in the language of nostalgia. Nostalgia for a past that perhaps never did exist, but nostalgia nonetheless. It is that internal freedom’s cry of loss, against a world in which conformist society and zealous authorities, religious or otherwise, deem it criminal to think for yourself. In the final stanzas, the poem morphs into a plea to abandon dogma, and embrace the liberating uncertainties of our existence. It becomes an appeal to seize the future and fashion it in the likeness of this idealized past – a past in which we were free. Free to champion heresies. Free to flirt with blasphemy. Free to fearlessly tell our truth. 

Dear Aylan: A Poem on the Human Tragedy of the Refugee Crisis


Dear Aylan

You slipped through fingers
– tyrants and terror of zeal
How fear must linger
infant eyes, begging: Feel.
Hope lies on the oceans,
guarded by tempests and beastly gale
Forced by fate through the motions
with wretched Death you set sail…
Body of humanity
lying lifeless in Turkish sands
slain by wars and nationality
that sealed shut selfish hands
Aylan –
criminalised, traumatised,
Aylan –
innocent, brave,
Aylan, Aylan
washed up on a tide of tears
murdered by the war machine’s gears
An untimely meeting with an embrace of waves
for we saw not people in those countless graves.
So if we see not in your coffin a child, a son,
certain we are that of hearts we have none.
it will matter not that we wail
If we follow fear’s orders
and bolster our borders,
your memory we will fail.

Raees Noorbhai

No Brotherhood with Bloodlust: A Poem of Protest against Xenophobia in South Africa


No Brotherhood with Bloodlust

You, South African

You, filled with cancerous hate

Merciless sealer of innocent fate

You, persecutor of the ‘other’

You are not my brother


You, South African

You, filled with fatal fear

Who kills with conscience all too clear

You, beating until hands blister

You are not my sister


You, South Africa

You, country of my birth

Fierce fire of freedom’s hearth

You, stubborn hope in my heart

You stand not from Africa apart


You, find humanity, children of stardust

Speak louder and declare:

No brotherhood with bloodlust


Raees Noorbhai

Shot by the Sheriff: a Poem on the Destructive Symbiosis between Racism and Police Brutality

Microcosm: an unarmed protester in Ferguson, Missouri confronts a heavily armed police force in the wake of Michael Brown's shooting. "Hands up. Don't shoot." (Scott Olson: Getty)

Microcosm: an unarmed protester in Ferguson, Missouri confronts a heavily armed police force in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting. “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” (Scott Olson: Getty)

Shot by the Sheriff 

“Racism is dead”

they confidently declare

as their bullets batter Mike Brown’s head.

Sow discord

Sow despair.


“But Jim Crow is gone”

they continue to ramble on,

as they handcuff hands behind a beaten back

for the crime of possession: skin that is black.


“These deaths are in isolation-

surely we have moved on”

continues their denial incantation.

Have they forgotten Trayvon?


So they descend like a deafening chorus

in the mindless melody of war

to inflict upon innocence horrors,

stoke crucibles to riotous roar.


Sworn, solemn, to serve and protect,

but rather the image our minds infect

as their strangling hands cull the herds.

Eric Garner’s gasping last words:


“I can’t breathe”


Raees Noorbhai


In 1954, a case was brought before the Supreme Court of the United States in what would become a momentous victory for the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. The unanimous verdict in ‘Brown vs the Topeka Board of Education’ ruled that segregation in schools violated the equality before the law enshrined within the 14th Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. The ruling was a declaration that America had yet to fulfill its founding principle-the self-evident truth that all are created equal. 

In the six decades since that landmark case, progress has been made in eroding the blatantly vulgar manifestations of racism. The era of ‘whites only’ signposts looming above drinking fountains is now a chapter of history. However, the fact that an African American now sits in the Oval Office does not mean that racism has vanished. It has morphed to become more subtle. It is the paling knuckles of the woman clutching her purse because she believes that the man with whom she shares the sidewalk may mug her, simply because of the colour of his skin. It is the seemingly never-ending tear stream that flows down the faces of mourning families who were robbed of a loved one by police brutality against unarmed minorities. It is the college application that Trayvon Martin was never able to send, because he was profiled as “suspicious” on account of his race and subsequently murdered for it. It is the void left in the lives of Eric Garner’s six children because their father was strangled by those who were sworn to serve and protect them.

The recent killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, has brought this interplay between marginalisation and police militarisation into the spotlight once again. However, the scope of this trend is highlighted by more than the tragic accounts that have humanized them. Statistics from the US Justice Department show that black Americans are four times as likely to be killed by law enforcement than their white counterparts. Black Americans are also far more likely to be arrested (often under the premise of counter-productive drug laws) and subsequently incarcerated-manifesting itself in the fact that approximately 1 million black men are imprisoned within the United States today-40% of the total prison population. 

The reality illustrated by this is disconcerting and is evidence that 60 years after that landmark Supreme Court ruling, the Dream that resonated from the vocal cords of a King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is yet to be fulfilled. This dream is not served by denialism and failure to acknowledge racism where it truly exists only allows it to fester. If the hopes for a truly post-racial society are to materialise, then it is necessary to recognize and remedy the destructive symbiosis between lingering racial prejudice and a militarised police force that all too often serves to perpetuate it.

Red Hands: A Poem on Inaction Breeding Injustice

The representatives of Russia and China to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin and Liu Jieyi, signal the intent of their nations to veto a resolution pertaining to the Syrian Civil War.

The representatives of Russia and China to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin and Liu Jieyi, signal the intent of their nations to veto a Security Council resolution.

Red Hands

How void of conscience is the hand

that mandates bloodshed on foreign land?

Raise an untouched veto of defiance-

purely preserve a divisive alliance.


Natural is only his transient hesitation,

as he raises his finger

allows it heavenward to linger

in a verdict of damnation.


Now opioids will not soothe him

and the elixir’s comfort eludes him.

For the conscience has returned from its lapse:

“Was my judgement impaired perhaps?”


Driven to despair by guilt dripping

like blood from fatalities of brutality,

the realisation is dawning-

his were the actions of evil’s banality.


So he shall endure self-vilified

A mental fabric embroidered with lead

for those who so needlessly died

when he dyed his hands red.


Raees Noorbhai


The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council-Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China-have the power to veto a resolution being considered by the body. This has allowed for these particular nations to stymie action in favor of their interests and allies, at the expense of peace and security. Hence, a fair deal of the criticism of the UN’s effectiveness can be traced back to these Security Council vetoes. This power to prevent action has contributed to the continuation of some of the world’s most horrendously violent conflict.

With the complexity of causality in mind, this poem explores the path of a (fictional) representative to the UN who vetoed on orders from his home country-and thereafter was consumed by guilt, as he felt increasingly responsible for the consequent brutality and bloodshed. It is a testament to the banality of evil and was largely inspired by the repetitive prevention of action by China and Russia on the bloody Syrian Civil War, which has now extinguished close to 170 000 lives and displaced millions more. However, as the onslaught on Gaza rages on, one can’t help but mention the dozens of times the United States has wielded its veto to prevent action being taken against crimes committed by the Israeli government.

The poem therefore is meant to prompt consideration of Security Council structural reform. It is a call for the international community to commit to concrete action and put humanitarian ideals above alliances and interests. It is, above all else, a cautionary plea for nations to give peace a chance. 

A Treason Of Reason: A Poem on Freedom of Thought


Famed martyr of free thought Giordano Bruno

A Treason of Reason

Starved is intellect in society

where none thinks but all know-

a mindless mantra of archaic ideas

in these great chambers of echo


Rampant runs a hapless

homogeneity of thought,

as freedom morphs into a conception

by few grasped; by all sought


They wear no chains,

but still are weighed down

For theirs are the shackles they bear

by which they are confined and bound


To ponder, to wonder,

to question, to reason-

Deemed by the state of

the auto-oppressed mind

as unspeakable treason


Now echoes the clatter of shattering  shackles

An end to this cycle of slave-like reliance

as sustained sedition

confronts this witless compliance


Embrace the Insurrection.


Raees Noorbhai