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Shamshad Khan


I’ve been waiting for funding so long

my performance idea
for a motorised-mini skirt
with automatic cold weather reflex
has had time to go out of fashion
come back in again.

The funding criteria seemed clear:
vision and imagination, quality of execution,
creativity of approach, capacity to
encourage public involvement in art.

I applied again

they just
loved the new proposal:
razzle dazzle tunic with pinstripe shalvaar
and union jack head scarf

cross cultural couture
positive action
sure to get a reaction
new audiences
targeted and marketed.

next step the media.
very keen.

“the programming’s no problem.
we’ve got the ideal slot

asian relationships and arranged marriages”

they like a hook
and usually find one size fits all.

I decide to risk it. Any publicity is
we’re on air.

“could you say a little about –
how you see the pinstripe “shall waar” as a symbolic representation of
post colonial South Asia. a floating signifier
rupturing cross cultural re-appropriation
of your cultural heritage”

I’m thinking about admitting
I was just taking the piss. but she’s taken my pause
to conclude I’m not so quick.

she’s already re-phrasing
“can I put it this way

if you were forced into an arranged marriage
would you be able to wear an outfit
like the one you’ve created
or would this be totally unacceptable to your community”



you taste food in the same way you listen to music
with reverent ecstasy
tasting each cadence in sound. separating layers of rhythm
savour slithers of melting melody
whilst hearing salt grind
in the unexpected sweet refrain
held at the back of your throat
the deepest base
touches the tip of your tongue
so sourness sings
its sharp twist
to curdle drums

you peel a piano concentrating on keeping the spiral
flavour spins the radio dial
blur of colliding in your headphones

in the wet street a woman and a man argue about
who should have rung who.

on rainy days I am told everything tastes like music.



any amount of piano tinkling key jangling crashing crushing
white teeth of ivory
# black coal
won’t rid you of this.
any amount of blue notes bobbing scaling insistent stepping, stamping on the same spot.
running to a high place and jumping.
won’t get you out of this.

this …….is….
this is………. this…. is….. is….. is….. …….is. this is….
where…. you…. have to……
have to……. have to just stop.

stop being blue.
bend true to the words. bend bow true to the voice that’s
been singing quietly three years now.
been humming low. lingering. nearly lost words to your
soul. saying stop. stop.

no amount of key crashing crushing jumping on the same
spot. rumplestiltskin mad angry deep wood mood in a
thought this was a secret place where no-one else has ever

no amount of key jangling crashing will get you out of this.
this is the same place others have been. no new found
territory to dig in your heels.

this is a free to come. free to go kind of place. and if you
don’t see anyone here with you now. they’re watching. if
you don’t see footsteps stamped before you. it’s because
like cats pissing they cover where they’ve been. blue as a
dog who can’t find his bone.
didn’t want to leave any tell tale marks because
you won’t want to return to this place if you’ve ever been.



It’s not often you give us a prime time slot
but make an exception in times of trouble
when you star us on the news on ITV and BBC

bomb blasts it was us who did it
famines the result of Islamic rule
demonstrations only of mindless masses
women covered it’s got to be oppressive

and it won’t be the last time there’s confusion
about Muslims and Islam in this nation
whether on radio or TV
rampaging fundo oppressive repressives
you know
even I’m starting to get
a negative picture of me

bomb blasts it was us who did it
famines the result of Islamic rule
demonstrations only of mindless masses
women covered it’s got to be oppressive

and whatever the news
you restate your views with such ease
always finishing with a call to prayer
Allahu -Akbar

any excuse to show us on our knees.


Copyright Shamshad Khan (November 2001, “Are We Visible” - Conference of S. Asian Arts)
Any similarity to funding bodies or institutions is entirely intentional. The writer would like to thank NWAB for their continued support of her work. e.mail:

Shamshad Khan has featured on radio 4; she has been published by Crocus Books, Payback Press and on the back of school toilet doors. Her voice craft influenced by rap rhythms, her stage presence by deaf signing and S.Asian dance.