Marrying Girls to Death


If I could remember I would see her disenchanted face.

As they told her that it was me, a girl.

That she had given birth to a beautiful girl.


She looked at my sex to reassure herself of her misery

And turned her head away, shaking it, disapproving,

Biting her tongue, forcing herself not to cry.


I disturbed her. My body. My face. My sex.

They put me down, next to her, bursting with life.

She closed her eyes tightly shut as if evoking a different outcome.


Her lips turned blue, her hands two fists.

Did I try to reach out to her?

Did I try to touch her?


In her eyes I was a monster, a burden, a disgrace,

I had not yet learned to speak and act.

And my mother shoved her back into my face and wished I was gone.



I am woman enough.

Men are our saviours.

There are too many girls.


When he told me that I was carrying a girl,

I didn’t flinch.

Get rid of her. I have no use for her.


It’s a curse, she costs money, or will end up in prostitution.

I have no room for a girl,

No compassion.


Everybody expects a boy.

A girl is an embarrassment.

Cut her out, I will not raise her.


Show me a son and I will become a mother.

I end her here and now.

You may dispose of her, don’t even tell me where she’ll end up.



I took my own two hands

And fed her poison.

I rocked her back and forth.


The poison dancing in her upset stomach.

She coughed and coughed as I hummed

A lullaby of death.


I held her in my murdering, motherly arms,

And looked at life disappearing from her infant face.

The realisation, the end of it all, no beginning whatsoever.


She kept her eyes wide open, the blood coming out

Sideways from her mouth,

And looked at me in accusation eternally.


God understands, my child, the village understands,

They urged me to get it done, a curse was upon us.

You sacrificed yourself for us, for our sakes.


As did your sister before you.

You both made way for a brother, a son.

Your graves are the foundation of his life.


“Ophelia” by Henry Lejeune (1819-1904)



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