Poems and Other Myths:

A collection of spoken word poetry by women from Asia.


Sheena Baharudin



Qul lil mumineena yaghuddoo min absarihim

Sons of Adam, 
you have failed me,
you have failed me and your God who 
have told you to do since the Olden days.
to tunduk, lower your gaze
Respect the lineage of Eve, of Hawa, 
Jadi tundukkan pandangan mata
was what God commanded you
but that you did not do

Instead you have called me names 
that never once belonged to me
I've been called a hantu, anak syaitan. 
To you I was the wild and unkempt demon  who kidnapped kids too curious to stay indoors at dusk so I hid them 
underneath my monstrous breasts  
and watched as they kicked, screamed and gasped

Like I really have nothing else better to do.


None of these names 
come close to the ones that I was given.

You see I was the first woman 
your eyes laid upon. 
My heartbeats, 
the only thing that could lull you to sleep.
You have called me ibu, 
mama, bonda, mak, and ummi
Yes, your mother who sang you those lullabies at night. Your mother and 
I always, always nurture my children.

But now you identify me 
by the first thing that your fallen eyes see
You obsess instead over the dimensions 
of my breasts
Throw names into the air like Hantu Tetek and Hantu Kopek

Through your giggles, cringes and laughters You disrespect me. 

Forgetting everything I have taught you since you were young, 
well let me refresh your memory, sayang. 

You did not laugh when you were hungry for milk
Instead you cried as loud as you could 
Not out of love but out of a genuine fear of death. 

Let me remind you the power 
of a woman's wrath 
through the stories of these names 
as I know how to tell them best.


Contrary to popular belief, 
I am more than the sum of my parts. 
Certainly I am more than just this part of my body.

God who taught Adam the names of all things did not show him a woman
only to hear him say, "breasts"
do not laugh, sit down
Read your holy book

Iqra wa rabbukal akram

and certainly Adam knew what he meant
when he called me
The Mother of All Living Things.

I sing stories of the divine femininity
Maybe that's why men fear me.
Perhaps I remind them 
that they came out from the in-between 
of their mother's shivering thighs, that they've survived simply from the nourishments of their mother's tits.

I represent all the things 
that you do not understand. 
I am the great mystery.

So you desire to tame me.


If fear of a name 
only increases fear of the thing itself.
Then fear me. 

For my name is Mahsuri
whose gushes of darah putih 
caused by the tombak 
not the rage of the keris
was not blood but the milk that was meant for her child. 

As how the milk was drained from her body
so too did her curse dry up the fertile soils of Langkawi.

Fear me for my name is Bumi, 
You have called me Gaia,
I am still your Ibu Pertiwi. 

Fear me for I am the mother of all your prophets

I am Yokhebed. The mother of Moses. 
I am Mariam. The mother of Jesus. 
I am Hagar. I am Hajar, 
si ibu yang berlari dari bukit ke bukit, 
mencari air untuk diminum oleh aku, 
bukan si Ismail. 

The miracle of zamzam was not for my son but for me so that I could in turn feed him back into existence.

I am Paradise, 
I am Jannah,

Feeha anharun min ma-in ghayri asinin 
wa anharun min labanin lam yataghayyar 

Far from the sins of hell's fire, 
I have rivers of water and milk 
of which their taste never change. 
So why would you think you can
change my names? 


All the parts of my sum 
Was created by a very generous God. 
The same God who told you then
and still tells you now to



Lower your gaze
and show some respect 
to your mother. 

By the time I was ten years old
a number of moles have already made
my body and my face, their home.

I have one on the middle of my forehead
one on the corner of my right eye
one under my bottom lip
one on the left side of my chest
one on my finger and
one on the surface of my sole

the very same one found by my father
when I was just 3 months old

Oh how I dreamt of these moles
falling off me like leaves
on a hot sticky summer day

but from primary to high school
these moles have decided to stay

and oh,
if I was ever given the freedom to choose
I would have chosen sticks and stones
I would have let them break my bones

for that would have been better
than having those mean names
finding their way from Monday to Friday
just to hurt and haunt me

So gradually
I began to find comfort in the outskirts
of my imagination
You can call it "defense mechanism"

Like that first time
when I saw the beautiful Kuan Yin and Green Tara
I knew that just like them
my mole is a third eye endowed with divine power
and if I squinted my eyes hard enough
I could actually see glimpses of Nirvana

Or that time
when I saw the giant statue of the sleeping Buddha
I wanted to be just like him
so I closed my eyes, slept in the very same position

and I tried to accept all those sufferings at school
as just facets of Samsara
because this is the best way for me to cleanse my Karma
this is how I should embrace my Dharma

and sometimes

Sheena the Muslim would morph into Sheena the Hindu
and I would strut around thinking
"Here I am with my very own fabulous pottu,"
which is a marking only found
on the forehead of feisty deities
it is a symbol of an Eastern civilisation
ancient and almighty

so I would watch those bullies and knew
that just like the mighty goddess Kali, I too
could dance all of them into annihilation

See me scatter them like dust
with my own rhythmic
anger, fury and wrath

(but I wouldn't and I shouldn't)

for I am the Trimurti
I have the beginning, the middle
and the ending inside of me

I am Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
I am creator, preserver, destroyer

I am benign thus I am kind
and even if I could not speak Tamil
it's not like I did not give it a try

But that was a long time ago.
Now, who knows?

I might just remove these moles earlier than I plan to do so
and when the time comes for me to let them go
I will still write to each and every one of them
an epitaph for me to engrave
on their imaginary tombstones

For this mole is indeed a third eye
allowing me to see you for who you are my dear

and this mole makes me see everything
with a child like wonder

and this mole reminds me to smile
and always speak good of others

and this mole marks the spot for me to move on
and forgive all of my errs

and this mole gives me poetry
when normal speech just would not work

and this mole on the surface of my sole
has brought me to all the places
I have arrived and departed

and this soul under the surface of my moles
has brought me into the arms
of all those I have loved wholehearted

with all my body
with all my soul
and my considerable number

of moles.