Poem – The Woman Breaking Bricks – Taslima Nasrin

The woman, breaking bricks and sitting on a sidewalk, 

wears a red sari as she breaks the bricks, under the burning sun, breaks the bricks, 

the bronze coloured woman breaks the bricks. 

Twenty-one? But she has seven children back home, looks forty up, 

and all day for ten taka, not enough to buy food for one, let alone seven, 

she breaks the brick. every day, breaks the bricks. 
Seated beside her, resting under an umbrella, a man is breaking bricks, 

all day long breaking bricks, 

a shaded man who earns twenty a day breaking the bricks. 

Of what does he dream, the man breaking the bricks, 

the man sitting under an umbrella, breaking the bricks? 
And of what does she dream, the woman breaking the bricks? 

She has a dream, a dream of having an umbrella, 

of breaking the bricks veiled from the sun, 

of becoming a man one fine morning, 

earning double for breaking the bricks. 
Her dream is her dream, 

but in the morning she is still a woman breaking the bricks, 

no umbrella, not even a torn one, breaking the bricks under the burning sun. 
New roads and tall towers are built with the bricks she broke, 

but the roof on her house was blown away in last year’s storm, 

the water drips through her tent, and she has a dream about buying a tin roof. 
Her dream is her dream, 

but in the morning her tent is soaked with water. 

So she shouts out to her neighbors, to the world, 

I have a dream, I have a dream. But still no umbrella, still no tin roof. 
Look, neighbors spit on her and say, her seven children are hungry, 

she needs oil for her hair, powder for her face! 

Her skin colour darkens daily, 

her fingers harden, harden like the bricks they are breaking. 
So with her hammer she continues, continues breaking the bricks, 

becoming herself a brick, a brick that cannot be broken 

by the sun’s heat, an underfed stomach, a dreaming heart.

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