–New Millennium Writings
Issue 21 (2012)New Millennium Writings, Issue 21 (2012)

The Taliban Takes Pakistan

By Pamela Uschuk

Women should be outlawed like plastic bags,
says the adolescent to the female journalist
wrapped in a red shawl. Her hands
are the same color as his. In an empty room,
near the Pakistan-Afghan border, the boy sits
cross-legged after school, where he is learning
the alphabet of becoming a suicide bomber.

Why should they be allowed to wander the streets?
he asks, not joking in Farsi. Women are for domestic.
That’s what they should be. Flattening
dark as land mine lids, his eyes
never move from hers nor see the way
she tries not to recoil. She knows she could be
executed for this interview. Clamped
in the boy’s right hand the Koran
is written in Arabic he cannot read.

His words stutter like bullets fired from an Uzi
or doves on fire. He wants to join the Taliban,
God willing. Those burning wings flare
as he recounts the day American missiles
shattered his everyday village. Helicopters
diced the air above his head as he ran
to search adobe rubble for his beloved cousin.

We looked everywhere, his mouth ages,
quivering into commas of grief,
but already the dogs were eating him.
All we could find to bury were his legs.
We had to carry his legs home
in plastic bags.

Editor’s Note: 

“The Taliban Take Pakistan,” won the 2011 War Poetry Prize from Winning Writers and first appeared at winningwriters.com and republished in New Millennium Writings, Issue 21 (2012).


American Book Award winner, Pamela Uschuk graduated with honors with a MFA in Poetry and Fiction from the University of Montana.  Called by The Bloomsbury Review, “one of the most insightful and spirited poets today,” she is the author of six books of  poems, including the award-winning Finding Peaches in the Desert (followed by a CD  of  the same title with musical accompaniment by Chameleon and Joy Harjo) and Crazy Love (2010 American Book Award).

Translated into over a dozen languages, Uschuk’s work has appeared in over three hundred journals and anthologies worldwide, including Poetry, Parnassus Review, Agni Review, Pequod, New Millennium Writings, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Hunger Mountain.

Among Uschuk’s literary prizes are the War Poetry Prize, New Millennium Poetry Prize, Struga International Poetry Prize for a theme poem, the Dorothy Daniels Writing Award from the National League of American PEN Women, the Literature Award from the Tucson/Pima Arts Council as well as awards from the Chester H. Jones Foundation, Iris, Ascent, Sandhills Review, and Amnesty International.

Several chapbooks of her poems have appeared, including Without Birds, Without Flowers, Without Trees (Flume Press Chapbook Award, 1990). Pam Uschuk’s Greatest Hits (Pudding House Press) appeared in 2009. An independent film, “Healing in the Language of Trees,” based on her poem of that title was released by Wing & A Prayer Productions.

Her nonfiction and short stories have appeared in Parabola, Terrain, Zone, Writers Forum: Best of the West, Still Going Strong, and Inside/Outside. Pam has been featured writer at The Sha’ar Poetry Festival in Tel Aviv, Israel, The American Center in New Delhi, India,University of Pisa, at International Poetry Festivals in Malmo and University of Lund, Sweden and Struga, Macedonia, at the British School in Pisa, Italy, Split This Rock, Gemini Ink Writers Festival,Meacham Writers Conference, the Southern Book Fair, Scandinavian Book Fair, Deep South Writers Conference, Tucson Festival of Books, Universities of Arizona, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Montana State, Arizona State, Colorado State & California State Universities, New York University, Juilliard, Hunter College, Vassar College, SUNY New Paltz, and numerous colleges and book stores.  She is regularly a featured poet at the Prague Summer Programs.

She taught creative writing at Marist College, Pacific Lutheran University, University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, Salem College and Greenhaven Maximum Security Prison for men in New York.  Uschuk spent years teaching poetry in schools to Indigenous students on the Salish, Sioux, Assiniboine, Northern Cheyenne, Flathead, Blackfeet, Crow, Tohono O’odham and Yaqui Nations in Montana and Arizona. In Spring 2011, Pam was the John C. Hodges Visiting Poet at University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


"The Taliban Takes Pakistan" © 2012 Pamela Uschuk

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