What Does Freedom Mean to You, Mr. Government?

Anasuya Sengupta

Bassel Safadi, Tural Abbasli, Fariba Pajouh.
Teesta Setalvad, Eskinder Nega, Raif Badawi.
Anna Politkovskaya, Irom Sharmila, Aaron Swartz.
Liu Xiaobo, Edward Snowden, Fereshteh Ghazi.1

So many names, so many faces, so many breaths.
Choking, or gasping, or... gone.
Many more names, many more faces, many more breaths -
Unknown, unseen, unheard... Gone?

Do you know these names, Mr. Government?
Do you feel their breath?
Do you remember their faces, Mr. Government?
Did you read what they said?

They asked for freedom, Mr. Government -
Not for war.
They ask for peace, Mr. Government,
To be as we are.

Freedom is not a choice, Mr. Government -
but you have made it a place.
Hidden from all but the wealthiest,
Open to a privileged gaze.

The breath remains, Mr. Government,
As does the word -
So long as freedom is a place, Mr. Government,
Its echoes will be heard.

1. These are names of journalists/writers/Internet activists from different parts of the world who have been harassed, imprisoned, or disappeared by their governments in the past few years. This list of names is obviously not meant to be either comprehensive, or representative; it invokes poetic license to remind us of what – and who – is at stake.