Poetry inspired by Injustice (1941), a mural by Maxo Vanka at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Millvale, Pennsylvania. Editor’s Note: The contents of this poem include graphic reference to domestic violence and sexual assault.
How Dare I?
I was wearing a yellow blouse The streets were hot and swimming with yellow Our shouting throats filled with a chant Our voices smacked the sky, FREEDOM… PEACE… and JUSTICE We were dreamers, filled with hope I was a dreamer, radiating strength. Police shot tear gas at us We were suffocated but didn’t scatter An old man fell down, My friend and I ran towards him He threw the old man over his shoulder and ran away. The policemen attacked me They were men, too many, too many, I couldn’t even count them They struck me with batons on all sides: front, back, right, left, on my head. They harassed me, one of them squeezed my breast. They threatened to rape me, and when I refused to get into the car, they dragged me barefoot on the rough dust. They caught me by my hands, and dragged me like a sacrificial sheep! The earth was so bright, so hot, but it was loving. They said: I went out against the governor, I shouldn’t protest They hit me, threw me in jail, and then judged me. My friends, when they saw me bloodied, barefoot and red-eyed, they cried! And you, You shouted very angrily: How dare you? How dare you publish a picture of your arm on the internet? How dare you? You are my wife, you are mine! At that moment I was gutted! I was strong, lucid, and solid like a diamond, but you got angry that I published one picture of my arm showing the bruises, but there were many more on every inch of my body. You only saw yourself, you only saw that I am your wife, yours! Your shoe. At that moment, I was gutted! Every cell inside me screamed. I felt my neighbor’s oppression when her husband prevented her from going out I felt my friend’s grief when her brother forbade her from writing and my cousin’s when her father prevented her from studying. I felt the pain of all women, just for being born women! I endured the hitting, the ache, and the pain, but I couldn’t bear the betrayal! And, my mother hugged me! I felt her loving entirely, like the yellow bright earth that they dragged me on. — October 2019
RaMa is a journalist and novelist from Sudan and a writer-in-residence at City of Asylum.