(Dedicated to Nika Shahkarami, Mahasa Amini, Ghazaleh Chalabi, Masoomeh, and all the other girls and women killed in their struggle for freedom from patriarchal religious oppression in Iran and across the world)

At an early age she learned, from her parents and her peers,

From her teachers, and on the bus to school

From sharp-tongued dictamens and jeers,

That a woman is less than a man.

And although she never dared

To ask her mother why, the girl only wished

That she was born a guy.


A man can fight for his honor

In God’s name he cannot fail!

But a woman’s honor is guarded

(From man and God) by a black cloak and a veil.

And worse when they went to cut her there,

Her protests were to no avail.


Though her mold, they explained, from creation was cast

Her calling was her household and her job – to make it last.

From her parents much talk of devotion, without the silver lining of joy,

The only hope that was given was,

“we can’t wait for you to give birth to a boy.”


And it was an insignificant matter,

If she should succeed or should fail

In losing her deepest ambitions – the winds that filled up her sail.

Indeed, she should marry soon, lest she tempt the fires of hell,

For she was almost 16, and it goes without saying,

She was ready to sell.


She can’t stand the husband of her father’s choosing

And she cannot even mention his frequent abusing.

She thinks of the path that leads to death or disfigurement,

Then she just accepts that she must somehow be different,

To her father, to her brothers, to her husband,

And, yes, to that unknown girl across the sea,

Who every day takes for granted,

What it means to be Devoté.