Poetry

She will never forget

8 October 2019

(CW: explores child marriage, mentions drowning and death)

 

a small slight bride collapses

under the weight of imitated jewelry

large bridal necklaces, thick as chains

shed golden dust on a 

crimson wedding dress

a sacred day

she will never forget

 

trudging along the shallow bank

her dress too heavy, caves her back

the green river gleams 

with the rippled reflection of a crescent boat

with a lush reed hut and majestic wooden oars: 

a gift from a husband she is yet to see 

 

they row across the great Ganges

the setting sun sprays the sky a 

collage of navy 

interwoven with pink

the soft rustling feathers of pelicans

and a sweet spring stream

 

a royal raja for an overjoyed rani

her father tells her he is a wealthy landlord 

owner of many shops and plentiful plots 

a respected, dejected man

whose wife drowned in the same river 

she must now cross

 

across a sunken valley 

in a dim clay cabin

moonlight as fine as a blade  

cuts open a creaking door 

 

and for a moment

the world pauses

he gently lifts her netted veil

she steals a glance 

 

withered, papery skin

charred teeth loosely stuck to

rotting pulpy gums

the stench of betel nut 

 

a family portrait glares

behind dying candle flames

a small domineering man

beneath whose burnt feet sits a girl  

his daughter 

her responsibility

 

By a silent shallow river 

on a cold dark night

a sleeping child awakens 

into a woman’s burden—

an entry to adulthood 

she will never forget

 

When she told me, confined to a bed by her eroded joints, my grandma was at peace with the life she had lived. Her bedroom walls were covered with photographs of her children and grandchildren, most of whom now live comfortably overseas. Her husband had died within the first few years of her marriage, leading her deeper into a world of property disputes, judgmental relatives and the scrutiny of a society that put single mothers on the lowest rung of the ladder. Yet it was these fights and sacrifices made in the name of her children that empowered her life with a sense of meaning and, ultimately, fulfilment. She was a woman who made the best of her circumstances and ensured no one else should ever face the same tribulations her fourteen-year-old self did. Above her bed hangs the fading family portrait she first witnessed on her wedding night, that of her husband and daughter, emboldened with a new perspective away from defeat and to that of triumph. By her side, reading aloud an article from a local magazine, is the daughter of her house helper, who now permanently lives with her after being freed from the clutches of her father, who had similarly attempted to sell her as a way out of poverty.


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