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#Poem I’m Burning Books: by Fiza Pathan

February 15, 2016


I used to be an avid reader,

In fact I am still one now in spirit;

But then one day I saw how they were burning my brothers,

So then I knew that it was time for me to join the jihad against the infidels.

They contacted me and told about how they need someone like me,

That my youth would help in our mutual cause;

But then they said something awful which made me want to sob,

They ordered me to burn my books and my past before I joined them forever.

They say burning books precedes burning people,

But then that too was quoted by the enemy of my holy land;

Hemingway, Morrison, Kundera, Austen, Nabokov and Dostoyevsky,

My heart cannot bear this pain to turn you all to ashes!

‘Burn your books’ they keep crying to me,

‘Burn your books’ they keep yelling at me;

‘Burn your books’ they keep screaming but I don’t hear a thing.

I’d rather burn myself dear jihadi brothers and sisters but not my books.

I’m now in Syria with my luggage dragging behind me,

Not shoes or clothes or electronics or jewelry;

They all mean nothing me or my convictions about the madness,

My luggage only contains my books that are afraid that I will leave them.

Gogol, Chekhov, Gandhi, Brontë, Tolkien, Orwell and Shakespeare,

All my family by the blood of ink dear jihadi brothers so how can I burn them?

I’m willing to use the gun for the Holy cause that is true,

But let my books alone for I need them more than they need me.

‘Burn your books’ they say or they won’t baptize me in blood,

‘Burn your books’ they say or they will punish me severely;

‘Burn your books’ they say or they will do it themselves,

So I weep as I light the pyre and one by one I burn every part of my being.

Corelli, Jerome, Saki, Gorky, Huxley and Salinger goodbye old comrades,

Dickens, Hardy, Carroll, Faulkner, Hesse and Woolf farewell in the heat of flames;

I wail like a mad man as with my own hands I burn my books,

It is tearing my conscience into two and I sin to wonder whether I am wrong?

‘Allah-Hu-Akbar’ as the magic of Narnia goes into its burning grave,

‘Allah-Hu-Akbar’ as Hogwarts turns immediately to ashes with the heat;

‘Allah-Hu-Akbar’ as the Land of Oz is searing in the flash of a matchstick,

But I can’t take it no more as the separation is hard to bear.

In place of my books they give me a number of guns, grenades and a dagger,

They tell me to rejoice but I can only cry in pain;

They try to calm me down but I am inconsolable,

Like a son whose old mother has passed away without letting him say goodbye.

The maniac inside grows day by day as I learn how to shoot my nemesis,

I play with bombs and war tanks with a hungry look on my face;

But then the madness consumes me and I realize what I have to do,

When they will burn the next stock of books in that will I go too?

‘Burn your books’ I jump into the flames one night,

‘Burn your books’ they shriek and try to put out the flames all in vain;

‘Burn your books’ I smile as I howl amidst the ashes of my soul mates,

And then I was no more and my jihadi friends were stunned but not amused.

Copyright ©2016 Fiza Pathan

Image courtesy:

By LearningLark [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


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