Steve Sunderland (far right), poet and activist, at the ‘March for Malala’ at University of Cincinnati, USA, in October 2012. Photo © 2012 Steve Sunderland.

My nose runs
Blood and tears
As I stand by
Your bedside.
Your head and neck
Are covered with
The holy bandages.
Nearby your father
Stands, his hands,
Strong, long fingers, hold
Themselves in what I
Take to be a prayer.

Your eyes are closed
And opening and closing.
What do you see through
Your veil of numbness?

Open, you can see from the
Mountain top, the perch
On top of the ladder,
The window in the attic,
Only thousands of little girls.

They are lined up like
Brightly tied ribbons in
Your hair, in the hair
Of the Prophet.
On their faces a smile
Is there…tentative
And expectant.
Their eyes are steady
For some; others have
Eyes that dart, first
Toward your room and
Then around, to the
Girls in front and the
Women in back.

They wail as the line
Moves ever so slowly
Toward teachers who
Are standing at their
Toward doctors who are
Examining the chests of
Little children;
Toward the nurses that
Bring medicine;
Toward the librarian
Where the students read–
All female–
Study, examine, and speak
About ideas, feelings, histories,
And the future of a
Place called “Pakistan.”

The sun is rising
You can see through the
Seams in the bandages.
It looks muted, pale,
And limited.
Your good hand and usable
Fingers stretch the cloth
And You can now see
All the colors of this sun,
And the brightness
And even the clouds
Streaming by.

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Steve Sunderland

Steve Sunderland is a professor of peace and educational studies in the University of Cincinnati's College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, Cincinnati, OH 45221 USA. He has been a peace and civil rights activist since 1958, married, father of 7 and with 10 grandchildren, and an advocate of peace and non-violence through the arts.

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