Judith Ahmed

Judith was born in Southampton, England, and immigrated to Australia in 1966. She has worked as a teacher in South Australia and Nigeria, where she lived for twenty years. Judith was a member of the writing circle of FOMWAN, (Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria). She wrote articles, poems and short stories for FOMWAM’s magazine, The Muslim Woman, which she also helped to edit.

On a trip back to South Australia, from November 1993 to February 1997, Judith attended the Applied Writing program at Hamilton Senior Campus, and taught in government high schools in the northern suberbs of Adelaide.

Her poetry embraces both sacred and secular themes, and a strong vein of socio-political comment runs through her work. Her first collection, Crescent Moon Caught Me, was published in 2004 as one of three short collections in Friendly Street New Poets Nine.

Africa, my Africa

Harmattan* mists, dry grass,
and mud huts
like those I first saw
from the plane with fresh eyes –
a tourist on a working holiday.
Then everything seemed easy, plain
until the humdrum took over.

Boys walk in file, carrying baskets.
Hawkers crowd the car
pushing yoghurt, apples
and fried plantain inside.
Smoke rises above savannah scrub –
large vistas, empty spaces
except for the odd trader selling yam
and a woman bowed under
a load of firewood.

Gum trees stand serene
reminding me of home.
But this was also home for twenty years,
experience deep inside of
fever and dysentery
side by side with memories
of courtship, wedding and family,
Sallah rams, durbahs and naming ceremonies.
Here the crescent moon caught me
under her spell.

Our daughters backed babies,
cooked pounded yam,
and danced for joy with their black friend
under our palm tree’s lattice,
cleaning paint buckets, pouring watery ‘milk’
into puddles, drenching their olive skin.
They also beat the rhythm
for their birthday musical chairs
on an upturned plastic bowl.

I too ate pounded yam,
but now I crave familiar food and faces
so this bittersweet life must end.
Yet something else must linger on
inside the blood, not only parasites
but Africa, Africans.

*Harmattan is a season in Nigeria between the wet and dry seasons, characterised by cool misty mornings, when the wind blows sand from the Sahara desert.

From Crescent Moon Caught Me – Friendly Street New Poets Nine

Breath of Allah

Oranges hang over my back door
a blade of grass, green scimitar,
curves towards light.
The sun sets over dark hills
like a scene from a Hollywood movie.
A semi-circular moon glows
on black velvet sky
behind palm fronds as crickets chirp.
Allah, you are the force
that flows through all things –
the source of life you breathed into man.
With every breath the Sufi says ‘Allah’.
The world is a breath of Allah.

From Crescent Moon Caught Me – Friendly Street New Poets Nine

Strike on Iraq

Green light flickers the screen
as bombs explode Baghdad.
My country is at war
with my adopted country.
My brothers and sisters in faith
mourn their dead,
while chaotic images
destroy my peace of mind.
I cry, helpless, before ads
for human rights.

From Crescent Moon Caught Me – Friendly Street New Poets Nine