Fióna Bolger: In defiance of borders

Fióna Bolger | Updated on October 24, 2019

Four poems by Irish poet Fióna Bolger from her latest collection ‘a compound of words’, which weaves her experiences of living in Dublin, Prayagraj and Chennai

Biting my Tongue

My teeth close, a portcullis on my tongue.

I am reminded of the price of protection.

Pappamma kept her drunken man

as defence against his tribe.

Men recognise some limits

those set by other men.



A Compound of Words; Fiona Bolger; Yoda Press; Poetry; ₹195



Pardesi Jaana Nahin’

movie in four scenes

setting: crowded Katra market

scene i

he whips out his pocket comb

neatly coiff s his hair

in a double handed gesture

begins his song, a star role

he’s proud of

scene ii

she hears the song

catchy tune, unaware

her fate is sealed

by these singing lips

trapped between the bars

scene iii

hustling bodies

hooting horns

constant surveillance

curious eyes, any slowness

an invitation to conversation

scene iv

later she understands

the words, the tune

her part, the script

she feels typecast

but cannot find a better role


Ghazal for a Kashmiri Girl

In a small town a teenage girl comes out

dishevelled from a stinking bathroom, considered out

of bounds—and they argue about decency

and question her honour. Out

of bounds to query the soldier who

also emerged after she came out.

The witnesses gathered a crowd

went to the barracks and called him out.

He never came but she was held with

her father, her aunt— all kept out

of their home for days.

until a police video was put out

it was all nothing, nothing happened. Five locals

died, before the news of nothing got out.


A Sumeet Mixie Box of Photos

it’s time to leave our home

the wardrobe packed full of photographs

mountains you climbed in Polish miners’ boots

soles later ripped off and replaced


deserts where we slept under Holi moons

heard of a birth far away

days by the sea, building sand temples

fully dressed splashing in the waves

and then our wedding album

three days of joining together

bound so tight we felt choked

and when I struggled to be free

you held on tighter

the mixie is still working

but not for me


Fióna Bolger’s poetry collection ‘a compound of words’, published by Yoda Press, will be released in November 2019

Published on October 24, 2019

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