I Was Once Beautiful

At fifteen, my chest was a minaret calling men to worship; fire burnt from the pit of my stomach, hot coals and I forgot her words— Educated girls fetch bigger dowry, Uneducated is an oppressed wife But stay in school long enough; the market is cruel to you.

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Around the fire, she was a mural; looked down the flames:
          Girls, this is your bodies,
          consumes everything it touches—

When she looked up, I wondered if gods would ever kill her—she was all seeing:
          Sit like a girl,
          and I scissored my legs closed.

Yet, you are water; between your legs, a fountain
          life and death in bed,
          a river men swim upstream
          and drown downstream.

Grandma! I’d scream.
          The glaucoma in her eyes didn’t hide her disappointment with me,
          She’d move her hands to her face, her fingers to catch tired tears …

*

At fifteen, my chest was a minaret calling men to worship;
          fire burnt from the pit of my stomach, hot coals
          and I forgot her words—

Educated girls fetch bigger dowry,
          Uneducated is an oppressed wife
          But stay in school long enough; the market is cruel to you.

And I quit:
          I was an egg in their hands, each tenderer than the last
          but they still squeezed a little, and the shell shattered
          the waters never staining them, yet they moved on.
Pretty girl, empty head.

*

It kills me to miss her—

I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut, In my orgasmic screams, I don’t hear her advice:

          Beauty is a bad friend; it abandons you one day
          Books add value to it; your future never behind.

The cellulite, the stretchmarks, my stomach that shows me the way
          a map of the lands I once travelled
The fire burnt, and the water didn’t kill it.

And I scream more: He mistakes my cry for help for orgasm.

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