I performed this piece called “Dying to Write” at an event last week. After the show one of the audience members told me how much she appreciated it and asked if it would be possible for her to read it somewhere, like on my blog. I have just recently started featuring my creative writing on my blog, and I have yet to post any of my poems, so I guess this one will be the first.
The piece was inspired by this article by Eliza Griswold which appeared in The New York Times Magazine a while back about women in Afghanistan who risk their lives to write poetry, particularly the story of one young girl who committed suicide. As a young woman, and given my own background in spoken word, I was particularly moved by the article and what it revealed to me about the value of both free speech and women’s rights.
I was reluctant to post the poem because I’m usually wary about analyzing and interpreting global news items through my strictly “Westernized” and “Americanized” lens. So, with that in mind, I will say that this poem is my individual reaction and fictional re-conceptualization of one article. The poem is not based on tons of research, and I don’t claim to be an expert on Afghan women’s rights or foreign policy. It is simply my creative response to what I read. It is intended to be a tribute to women who risk a lot more than just vulnerability in order to express themselves. It is written in the style of The Diary of Anne Frank, one of my favorite books which also reminds me of the importance of young women’s voices.
Dying to Write
I have to be more careful.
Brother noticed an ink stain on my hands during dinner this evening.
Mama glared at me and then looked away.
Papa waited for an explanation.
I told him it was dirt.
Must find some of brother’s pencils.
Paper is a mirror–the lid over my voicebox.
I saw him today when I went to hang the clothes out on the line.
Only Mama was home.
I pretended I was having trouble reaching so he could come to assist me.
He asked how old I was and I told him: “I am a peach plucked in March: ripe before my time.”
I did too, but I was not being coy.
It is true.
It is only a lid, not a seal.
I’m sorry I have not written in a couple of days.
Brother has been taking my pencils and using them for school.
By the time I find them, the points are all dull.
I hate dull points.
I want to write everything SHARP!
Like I feel it.
Only I’m not supposed to feel.
Whenever I remember that, I read this record, so I can forget it again.
In my voicebox, treasures are hidden. Some people are unworthy of treasure, and others can’t recognize its worth.
They tell me that I am to marry my cousin soon.
I want to tell them that I don’t love him, but the lid over my voicebox is not to be removed.
Nor does it matter
Papa already suspects that I’ve been getting too advanced.
He says my words are not like me
But he is wrong
My words are me.
They are the real me, the screws that loosen the lid on my voicebox.
Some want my treasure for themselves, but I keep it for me. And for you, diary.
I may shut my voicebox, but never my mind or my heart.
I saw him again today.
He must have heard that I am to be married because he did not smile at me.
He did not even look my way.
My voicebox is silent. My heart is loud. Can’t he hear it?
You are missing.
Where are you?
I must collect my thoughts on scraps of paper to keep from going crazy with fear that you have been found.
Papa already says my words are not like me.
What happens when he finds out what I am really like?
My voicebox has been stolen, my treasures pillaged. Who will protect me from my voice?
You were on my bed when I returned this evening.
I know Papa has discovered you because I am not allowed to leave the house anymore, not even to hang the clothes on the line.
The wedding is fast approaching and then he will not have to worry about me anymore.
He need not worry.
I will protect me from my voice. I will protect them.
I saw him today.
I had to say goodbye.
I snuck out of the house while mama was napping.
He congratulated me on my coming wedding.
“You are a peach plucked in March: ripe before your time, and before I could pick you,” he whispered.
I have poked a hole in my voicebox to match the one in my heart. They are both leaking their contents onto this page.
I hope that I have finally put my pencil to a use that Papa will approve of.
I will protect me from my voice. I will protect them. My silence will save us all.