Extra poem: "The Right Word"

One of the greatest challenges facing the world today is global terrorism, the unwanted child of globalization. Everyone condemns terrorism, but who exactly are the terrorists? That turns out to be a much more difficult question, as the following poem illustrates.


The Right Word

by Imtiaz Dharker


shadow Outside the door,

lurking in the shadows,

is a terrorist.


Is that the wrong description?

Outside that door,

taking shelter in the shadows,

is a freedom fighter.


I haven’t got this right.

Outside, waiting in the shadows,

is a hostile militant.


Are words no more

than waving, wavering flags?

Outside your door,

watchful in the shadows,

is a guerrilla warrior.


God help me.

Outside, defying every shadow,

stands a martyr.

I saw his face.

 No words can help me now.

Just outside the door,

lost in the shadows,

is a child who looks like mine.


One word for you.

Outside my door,

his hand too steady,

his eyes too hard

is a boy who looks like your son,



I open the door.

Come in, I say.

Come in and eat with us.


The child steps in

and carefully, at my door,

takes off his shoes.





Analyzing poetry – images

  1. In order to convey meaning, poets make use of images; that is, pictures which readers can see in their “mind’s eye.”  The central image of this poem is of a person standing in the shadows outside a door.
    Divide the class into six groups. Each group takes one of the first six stanzas in the poem and answers the following questions:
    - What does the person standing in the shadows look like (in your “minds’ eye”)?
    - What is the person doing in the shadows; that is, what intentions does this person have (according to the way he is described)?
    - What do you think the person inside the door feels about the person waiting outside?

    Compare answers between the six groups in class before going on. How do they differ? Could they all be about the same person?
  2. Read the final three stanzas. How does the poet change her use of the image of the door? What does this add to the meaning of the poem?
  3. Why is this poem entitled “The right word”?



  1. At the end of the poem the person speaking (“I”) invites the outsider in. What does this act symbolize?
  2. What does this poem tell us about people who fear terrorism?
  3. What does this poem tell us about people who practise terrorism?