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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Herat Province and the Problem of Self-Immolation; A Poem

Photograph by Paula Bronstein
Painting Billie’s Blues by Janeen Stone Morehouse

By Octavia McBride-Ahebee

 I took her
within the boundaries of my burka
buried beneath the world
I took Billie with me
a haggard chorus of one
a voice tied to silk and twisted hemp
that cut my ears with a melodic charm
her stretched out words
the ones that never stood to be sounded
were an incantation
pouring my despair across a crop
drugged and lying in wait for me
she squeezed herself through an iPod
a euphonious amulet
energized by currents of expectations
a gift given by a visiting girl from the West of Philly
to encourage my heart
a girl who came to Herat
with beaded hair 
braided in the shape of a halo
carrying the world in a Walmart duffel bag

we are both Khadeeja
the supposed complement of someone else
she taught her sisters an ambitious grammar
tied to a human history
told through Holiday’s songs
amid the redolence of the musk-scented roses
and orange blossoms
in the hall of fields flushed with swaying poppies
poppies naked in their fearless redness
red like the hardened candy apples I lick through my cloth cage
a cage with no delicious opening
for my tongue to peek out
and taste the world.

I will burn myself today
when the sun is its most vain
amid the opulence of candy-colored poppies
between the embrace of voluptuous pining trees
with Billie plugged in my ears. 
I will pour from a returnable Coca-Cola bottle
dinner’s petrol
over my whole existence
and wish 
that someone
with hands that are enlightened
will rub the sweetness of honey into my wounds.

This  poem, An Engagement for Burning, originally appeared in Damazine; A Journal of the Muslim World,  and  is my small attempt to shed light on the growing problem of Afghani women, particularly in the province of Herat, burning themselves- self-immolation- as an extreme protest against the dire challenges of their lives.

Here’s a link to a series of news articles about this problem.

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