Red, White and Blue Kaleidoscopes

Note: this poem has no single reading order. It consists of twelve clauses that can be combined in different ways to form various readings. Across the top are the phrases “Thanks to recent military gains” and “Afghan women and girls.” Across the center are “Mrs. Laura Bush,” “lands at Bagram Air Base,” and “looted by the Taliban.” Four phrases are arranged in a diamond shape around “lands at Bagram Air Base.” They are: “plants trees in Kabul,” “can’t go to public parks,” “hands kaleidoscopes,” and “can’t fly kites in the sky.” The bottom line has the phrases “fights for the rights of,” “Afghan children,” and “after twenty years of war.” The diamond shape in the middle and the rearrangeable text evoke the titular kaleidoscope.

Thanks to recent military gainsAfghan women and girls

plants trees in Kabul   can’t go to public parks

Mrs. Laura Bushlands at Bagram Air Baselooted by the Taliban

hands kaleidoscopes    can’t fly kites in the sky

fights for the rights ofAfghan childrenafter twenty years of war

Some text taken from a Radio Address by Laura Bush on November 17, 2001 and from the White House archives of March 2005 about Laura Bush’s visit to Kabul, where she passed out red, white and blue kaleidoscopes.


Born in New York City and raised in Virginia, Zuhra Malik is an Afghan American poet and civil engineer. Her poems have previously appeared in KAIROS. She has an orchid collection and a Bengal cat named Alpha.