To the Kurdish Women Soldiers

With girlish smiles above costumes of war –
you dance, sisters; stamp the pallid golden dust
to furbellows about your booted feet.
Cold light, drab uniforms are aching sweet
unstifled by the long black veil of lust,
pride and friendship warming at the core.

Mountains they say, are Kurds’ only true friends.
Dawn on a plateau in the lofty range:
do you feel a welcome in the mist?
Are hearts weighed heavy by the faces missed,
or do your high defences now estrange
low life, turn thoughts to all that never ends?

What stirred you from the rooted life before
where ease and pain, and role were in their place?
What tore you from tradition, shook your bones
to violent strain among the desert stones?
And do you now renounce your former grace –
fight for a future land, or for its lore?

Do you look to the mountains? Where is aid?
The silent emptiness gives no advice.
Mothers and children sleeping far below
seek their reply where reason cannot go.
But near the turquoise lake of Paradise
faith by a thousand questions is waylaid.

Though shoulders bow, a rare glow in your eyes.
You laugh yet, girls, the fatigues drab upon you.
Joy not for this hard life, nor thought to kill;
the free abandon to a greater will?
the bond of friendships’ deeper love, found true,
or firm belief – ‘a martyr never dies’?

And which of you has seen love lose its head?
Has held death close and pressed it to your breast,
or kissed the mouth whose only word is blood?
These your burning incentives? or man’s flood
cursing upon your borders all those blessed
with freedom for which you would die instead?

You women know that motherhood is fierce.
and girls will prove womanhood more than flesh,
giving gladly, selves body and soul.
No luxury or power is your goal –
to kill for country means defend the creche,
strike for a heart the sword is going to pierce.

You do not take for granted now this breath
so cooly drawn, or offered as you train
and battle with your brothers to the end.
Willingly, not lightly, the Kurds send
your loveliness to bear destructive pain:
for liberty and life, confronting death.


The Eye of the Beholder

Beauty may be found in the beholder’s eye.
What is it then? a critical analysis?
No man may calculate –
the sunset’s wave of light,
the tug of lopside grins,
the lift of wings in flight – on heart’s paralysis.
Nor is the sun, the child, the bird
made lovelier by our heart’s swell.
But when we look, admire, adore,
with praise, our heavy spirits soar!



‘What is Truth?’ asked Pilate – relativist before his time,
a man seeking a loophole in the tapestry dark and divine.
Jesus spoke to him no more; those words were strung in hell,
they burn with self-sufficiency, and shun the holy well.
Yes, deep past calculation are Life’s waters; they reflect
our light and shadow, rippling confused when we inspect.
Each angle shows things differently, perhaps we stir up mud:
a King is wearing rags, an innocent drips blood.
Some say it is a mirage, desire in a stare,
those who drink will promise that its bitter-sweet is there.
Doubting though dependent, and thirsting from our youth –
whether or not we see it – we live only by truth.


An English Elegy

Land of sorrowed skies, blithe waters, tender green,
where shadow chases light, moved by the ocean air –
what darkness turned your soul from the heaven’s Queen?
watching pale and pensive, grief poured into prayer.
The dowry* of the Bride was not of coin but hearts
in love and honour true; that sea-sequestered place
where man, woman and child offered work and arts
to the living Word, whose every breath is grace.
Soot from the flames of lust, proud lucre’s seething oil
more than trains or chimneys blinded England’s way;
The desecrated shrine, and barren, plundered soil
mourned innocent beauty of our Lady’s day.
Yet now – when Logres stirs; as minds and hearts awake –
oh, pray we live once more for our sweet Mary’s sake!

*Note: In Medieval times, England was sometimes given the figurative title “Mary’s Dowry,” Mary being the mother Jesus and a dowry the price that a bride’s family pays to the husband.

Ruth Asch published her first book of poetry ‘Reflections’ in 2009 (St Austin Press) and individual pieces in many journals since. She writes poetry in rare quiet and inspired moments, and otherwise is the mother of four and sometimes a teacher. Her roots are in England but she has been living and teaching for some years in France and Spain. 

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5 Responses

  1. Laurie John

    Ruth’s Kurdish poem shows a mastery of poetic form and the restrictions of palindromic rhyming scheme are never allowed to dictate meaning. This girl is exhibiting a sudden flowering of exemplary poetry and is worth our full attention.

  2. 绿山从 From Green Mountain (Cong Lu Shan)



    I tend to go on substance. Poetry comes second.

    Based on that …. I would like to address something of substance… I think most people are …. how to say it…

    …they will only say what they think, or publicly recognize morality when it fits in with their social circle.

    This poem, a very good poem, is an example. Though it has not negative reflection on the poem itself. How many poems have we seen that directly recognize the courage of fighting men? The basic standard of valor based in reality. Exceptions to the rule cannot become the standard unless the standard itself is no longer being recognized.

    Thank you for this wonderful poem.

  3. Ruth

    Cong Lu Shan, thank you for taking the time to comment. I would appreciate it if you could clarify what you mean though. Are you saying that the poem is cowardly because it addresses a rare thing rather than a common one? And do I take it that your references to the ‘poem’ refer to the first of the four poems?

    • 绿山从 From Green Mountain (Cong Lu Shan)

      Hi Ruth. Sorry for the delay. I had no words to answer you. No, the poem is great! Anything but. The whole society and its contents are really outstanding. It’s just that, it’s hard to find the words themselves these days for really traditional things like gallantry. Respect between human beings. And so on. Everything seems to be drenched in emotion. Otherwise, it doesn’t even seem to register. But I think it’s just because those things are all too rare and it’s hard to really put a finger on them unless they are somehow made to stand out. And even without that, things today are so staid and one dimensional that the words themselves tend to not be as beautiful as they would otherwise be. In terms of normal speech patterns. Just my two cents.

  4. Lorna Davis

    These are beautiful. I wondered what the form of the Kurdish women poem was, so thanks to Laurie John for that clarification. Wonderfully done.


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