Tripoli by Molly Sutton Kiefer

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

                         Iman al-Obeidi, Libya woman, who claimed rape by Gaddafi forces.
                         All italicized lines from articles in
The Huffington Post, March 2011.    

That blood, someone’s nails pulling runnels in her cheeks,
and her hair, such a muss, and she’s saying something,
she is wet with emotion, wet with it, maybe foolish too — the men
are having their dinner, they are soaking their bread
in cups of tea. There are others, men whose elbows
bend outwards like sturdy wings, bringing up a singular eye,
the other burrowed, squinting, and the flick of a wrist —

          They tied me up ... they even defecated and urinated on me.  
          The Gadhafi militiamen violated my honor.

Even the waitresses struck her down. Their hands
plucked at her blouse, rattling her tigress scarf,
the silk too easy to slip through their roughshod hands.  
Pots have begun to spill in the back.  

          She described being bound, beaten, and having alcohol poured
          over her eyes. She also said that she was gang raped repeatedly,
          and that one of the soldiers sodomized her with his Kalishnikov
          while her hands were bound.

The cameras swelled, scarred and splayed, hands
blocking the more manicured, the wool coats
and brass buttons, one clutch at a dusty oxford,
a button pops, falls, and the bespectacled man stumbles —
who are they, where are they taking her —

          This girl is a prostitute. She has her rights completely, but the girl is not
          what she pretended to be, this is her line of work.

We see her own bird-arms, a tissue in a clutch, and she’s
still speaking, she’s desperate, and a man’s hand slides
over her mouth, then holds it still. There is a car waiting
for her, white, dark windows, shiny ominous
dominance. She’s sealed into the lip, and we cannot see
her now, what she’s done with her hands. They drive away
too quickly. What they’ve done with her hands.

Molly + Maya.jpg

Molly Sutton Kiefer is the author of the chapbooks The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake and City of Bears.  She is a member of the Caldera Poetry Collective, serves as poetry editor to Midway Journal, and runs Balancing the Tide: Motherhood and the Arts | An Interview Project.  She currently lives in Minnesota with her family.  More can be found at