Blisters: A Poem

by: , October 5, 2023

Newscasters announce
the obvious: bushfires
lay siege to the city. I breathe
the smoke of forest and field
but my mind
remembers pages ablaze.

In shadows of black fig trees,
I run, concealed, crouched
and watch, as Granny burns books,
shield our truths from extremists’ rage.
She loads words into the furnace to save us,
should the guards arrive.

I wish a flight could fetch the blisters
as we turned books to charcoal
in the yard where fountain stood,
and fundamentalists’ spectres threatened.
The garden trembled, boots trod,
felicity faded beneath the heavy sod.

The garden lacked the courage of those stories
it cowered under the boots.
Until its last breath, the pillars that held
the roof were hopeful.

Still, the walls gave way and the windows
collapsed, thirsty for freedom.
The house, in its perpetual silence, stood confused
like mismatched sandals. On the other side
of the street, a jeep loaded our
aspirations and carried them to the bonehouse.

The black pomegranates on the street
turned out their lamps and shrank away.
At the news-stands felons gathered.

The blisters on our hands are scars now,
wrinkled and lonely. Never mind.
Grandmother’s candle holder still fits my palms
and on the stateless earth
vapor rises in streams of melancholia.

You say anyone writes the truth,
and everyone reads what they will
into the past or the lines; you say
no one sees shining bowls
where a child freezes memories
in the back of the fridge.
It is difficult to explain
but I know that those who dream
disperse like the ashes of burned books.


Oracle of the Stateless: Portrait of Saba Vasefi by Yvonne East.


Saba Vasefi, raised in Iran during the eight-year war with Iraq, under a religious dictatorship. Her journalism and underground documentary in Iran exposed the plight of women and children on death row. The memory of her childhood home being raided by the Islamic Republic regime’s guards inspired her poem ‘Blisters’.

Her poems have appeared in various journals, including Transnational Literature, Wasafiri Magazine of International Contemporary Writing (UK), Cordite Poetry, Australian Poetry, International peer-reviewed journal Axon, and The best Australian poems 2022 and the Art Gallery of NSW. She is the editor of Borderless, A Transnational Anthology of Feminist Poetry.

Her report on the gendered harms of detention won the Premier’s Multicultural Communications Awards. To date, her works on human rights issues have been published in leading Australian and international newspapers including BBC, ABC, Associated Press, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, SBS, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Women’s Weekly Magazine,, BuzzFeed, Daily Life, The Canberra Times, and Women’s Agenda.

She was twice a judge for the Dolatabadi Book Prize for the Best Book on Women’s Literature and Women’s Issues, a judge for the BR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize and Diversity and Inclusion Award for the ACRAs.

Saba is a member of The Women in Refugee Law Network in the UK, an honorary advisor for the Indigo Foundation and an honorary member of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia Inc.

Saba has completed her postgraduate degree in documentary filmmaking from the Australian Film Television and Radio school. Her documentary films have been screened by the BBC, the UN, Amnesty International, Copenhagen Film Festival, the Seen and Heard Film Festival, the Human Rights Film Festival, the Exile Films Festival, and at UCLA among many other special screenings around the world. She was a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and also worked as a researcher for the International Campaign for Human Rights based in New York.

Vasefi, an expert on gendered state violence has appeared at numerous events such as The Opera House’s All About Women conference and ABC Q & A.  She has also been invited by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to provide insights and testimony for their inquiry into the human rights implications of recent violence in Iran.

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