AFGHANISTAN: THE RAPED GIRL by Alicia Ostriker

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


In the hospital room, the doctor found the girl’s mother holding her child’s hand, and both were weeping.  “My daughter, may dust and soil protect you now,” Dr. Sarwari [Hassina Sarwari, director of the women's shelter] quoted the mother as saying. “We will make you a bed of dust and soil.  We will send you to the cemetery where you will be safe.”
            NYTimes,  July 19, 2014
 
Because the mullah raped her, she cannot be allowed to live
Her brothers will kill her, it is a question of honor
She is ten years of age and does not yet menstruate
But bleeds like a stream in the hospital
 
The brothers have spoken to the police who command
The women’s shelter where she now is staying
To release her to them
They have promised not to harm her
But everyone understands

Lying is not a sin when one’s honor is at stake
Even the mother understands this
Even the child understands
Although  Dr. Sarwari is furious
She shouts at the police like a grey old crow

And the journalist  who is doing his job
Getting the story
May climb inside the bottle tonight
 
And I who read the story
Will call on my mother, wherever she is
In the next world, she for whom honor
Was not a concept, she from whom I learned
Liberty and fury
Our weapons in this world.


Poet, critic, and activist Alicia Ostriker was born in 1937 in New York City.  Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, Ostriker has published fifteen volumes of poetry, including The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011, for which she received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, and The Book of Seventy (2009), which received the Jewish National Book Award. Other books of poetry include No Heaven (2005); The Volcano Sequence (2002); Little Space (1998), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (1996), which won the Paterson Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award. Known for her intelligence and passionate appraisal of women’s place in literature, Ostriker’s poetry and criticism investigates themes of family and motherhood, social justice, Jewish identity, and personal growth.  Her poetry has been translated into French, German, Italian, Chinese, Hebrew and Arabic. Her most recent book of poems is The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog.