A century later

by Imtiaz Dharker

The school-bell is a call to battle,
every step to class, a step into the firing-line.
Here is the target, fine skin at the temple,
cheek still rounded from being fifteen.
 
Surrendered, surrounded, she
takes the bullet in the head
 
and walks on. The missile cuts
a pathway in her mind, to an orchard
in full bloom, a field humming under the sun,
its lap open and full of poppies.
 
This girl has won
the right to be ordinary,
 
wear bangles to a wedding, paint her fingernails,
go to school. Bullet, she says, you are stupid.
You have failed. You cannot kill a book
or the buzzing in it.
 
A murmur, a swarm. Behind her, one by one,
the schoolgirls are standing up
to take their places on the front line.