March 7, 2005
She was a tired girl trapped in a woman's mind.
Thinking of cigarettes and sex on tender afternoons.
She couldn't help herself. Her anger at injustice
Resided at the tip of her tongue, in the color of her lips.
she gave herself to the boy next door,
Then later, to a man twice her age.
The reports say she was mentally incompetent.
When she faced the judges, for "acts incompatible with chastity"
Her quiet state of madness grew darker.
She spoke against her accusers, lashing her tongue
100 times against the body of men
wrapped in white cloth and holiness.
Weeks later her body hung from
Tied to the bough of a chestnut tree at Neka Square.
Beneath the black folds of cloth that would erase her,
The citizens passing by saw the scorn in her past-virgin
Face. They made themselves feel better by speaking
under their breath.
She was a whore, a temptress, a victimizer of men.
That night her
body lay in the hot, humid ground.
Someone, perhaps the men, dug her up,
Fearful that her skin and bones
Might eat away at the earth
where mortal saviors walk.
She has risen again, some say.
Given her body over to the flight
Of souls, to watchful eyes
That entreat us to remember
The body from where we came.
-- For Atafeh Rajabi, age 16, executed in Iran,
August 15, 2004
Persis M. Karim teaches English literature at San
Jose Satate University.
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