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*Sonia, 14

November 19, 2011

Between a rock and a heartless place
they will give me a terrible death.

Crushed between eon-cast strata –

promised at ten to a Taleban
impaled on the hook of my brothers’ honour
gagged by gallstone judiciary.

A mother’s sphere is flat-bread small
her orbit cramped – four cracking walls
arms slack against fists and chronic kicks
that rend muscle, shatter bone


At fourteen a chance –
grey-blue burqa shadow
sudden, in unpaired shoes,
I walked.

Fossil. Safe house hobbled
rank with Kabul dread

between a rock and a heartless place
they will give me a terrible death.

* name changed. The italicized words belong to the girl who inspired this poem.


Linking to dVerse Poets Open Link Night 23.11.11

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  1. Very profound, moving, sad.. but true. ‘gagged by gallstone judiciary’ I particularly like.

  2. Becky, this is a chilling story, told effectively.

  3. I agree- beautiful and vivid, yet sad.

  4. Very chilling, like the twist to the old between a rock and a hard place line, yours is way way better. Because isn’t a rock hard too? So wouldn’t a rock and a hard place be the same thing? little off track, great verse…haha

  5. wow…what a quote to build on as well…and what a harrowing tale…nicely penned to stir the emotions

  6. Wow! Powerful. Words that need to be read, heard, understood, acted on. Thank you for bravely giving voice to those whose stories so desperately need to be heard.

  7. Becky…this is honestly awful! I can only imagine…Hope she who has inspired the write has not met this fate. My goodness….an amazingly powerful write…but I think I prefer your spices and scents and music and dance much more,

    • Thanks Tash…. can understand why this departure from some of more atmopsheric pieces might be disturbing.. To think this is a life… and so little control over it… truly awful..

  8. It’s appalling how the Taliban — and just about every other authoritarian fundamentalist sect of any religion – treat women, how much they’re punished for the fact of being female. Your opening and closing lines wall in the futility of everything inbetween. Great handling of a terrible misanthropy. – Brendan

  9. oh my easy read today but a masterfully crafted one.. way too many of these stories out there and kudos for writing one of them down..

    • No, not easy at all. But we can click and run….. Thanks Claudia – always appreciate your empathy and interest.

  10. with every read it grows in power – i’m still hooked on the opening/closing couplet.

    something about the words/image combo that stuck its hooks in and wont let off

    (a feeling i like by the way – in a creative sense – )

    powerhousepoetry (in the cold light of day)

  11. As I said on FB this is a perfect and searing write. Hit me like a train.

    • Anna… very much appreciate your response. An awful state to endure. Almost impossible to imagine.

  12. thanks for raising the issue, and poetically too.

    well done.

  13. Well, you know I will love the placement of ‘religiously’

    That works so well because the poem is hemmed between those great refrain lines. Me, I don’t think you always have to be overtly creative in poetry, your spin is a spin on a rock and a hard place, and I applaud that, the slight change to give it relevance and then the evocative nature of the words in italics. The poem hemmed between those refrains is fast and combative or desensitized -like someone was pulling apart the body of a chicken, it’s of this world and I have to say I admire writers who care and give a fuck about things extending beyond their own kitchen (i never get out of that place). I do care, but I never write about it, there is never the thought that I could conjure enough of life to stutter what is life, and by this i mean the rough stuff.

    And your writing is quite sophisticated and informed and hooked into cnn, in this instance, and in a lot of cases. You are where you are and you have a knowledge of that part of the world.

    It makes me hesitant to critique, because I am not one to talk about stuff I don’t know much about. On the other hand I saw this as a bit of a poem, for all its fast pace and combativeness there were (there was) an acuteness to the story and within it -certain moments

    At fourteen a chance –
    grey-blue burqa shadow
    sudden, in unpaired shoes,
    I walked.

    Fossil. Safe house hobbled
    rank with Kabul dread

    The certainty of the unpaired shoes – walking toward.
    Safe house/rank with Kabul dread.

    That bit breaks your heart a bit.

    The poem has that moment and then, is hemmed.

    I guess I am saying this poem, for me, was all discovery, and later I understood, appreciated why things were put

    the way they were. Positioned,

    the way they were.

    Very seriously, an excellent poem.

    • Daniel, thank you so much for those thoughtful comments. I was very interested to hear how this piece struck you and so glad to know that you felt a sense of being hemmed in. It was that above all, the lack of real choices, that I wanted to convey. The story was one I read in a Middles East edition of a UK newspaper (The Times) and the italicised words were quoted in the story.. they hooked me and wouldn’t let go. This was a case of being compelled to write. The unpaired shoes are actual facts of her story too.. in her rush to seize the opportunity to leave that is how she found herself shod. I’m so moved when I read about the lives of women in Afghanistan (in particular) because of their powerlessness.

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