The girl who stole her brothers' honour


Muslim woman


The medics have haloed Mohammed's head.
Eyes closed, he lies still as a marble saint

in a medieval cathedral.
Arms outstretched, the technician steadies

a metal plate ready for the Xray photograph
eyes intent on the large lamp

lighting upon Mohammed's torso.
All life is sacred

whether you are friend or foe
in the field hospital at Kandahar.

The woman carries an aid box on her head

Dressed in a shapeless abaya
she is neither very young nor very old.
The cardboard box has moulded to the shape

of her black-veiled head — she holds it steady
right arm extended, narrow wrist exposed,
fingers at full stretch.

Her face is uncovered and her gaze is calm
unhurried, as she turns to the camera,
eyes slightly narrowed against the light.

Behind her in the photograph — men
walk along an ancient road
towards the open gate of the refugee camp.

The men wear jeans and warm jackets.
Some have hoods pulled up around their faces
others are bare headed. All are empty handed.

If it weren't for the cardboard box and the aid jeep
and the way the men are dressed, the scene
might belong in a book of bible stories.

The story in which the woman goes to the well
balancing a ewer of water on her head.
The one where she meets a Good Samaritan.

Sing your landay

In the dark cage of the village
a woman's voice sings of the girl
who stole her brothers' honour.
They shaved her black curls,
closed her green eyes, scooped
the body into a sack —
threw it into the cold river.

Come back into the world
girl with black curls and green eyes.
Put on your wedding shoes.
Let your hennaed fingers
beat the hand drum.
Sing your landay —
over and over.

Moya Pacey

Moya Pacey, a Canberra poet whose first collection The Wardrobe (Ginninderra Press 2009) was runner-up for the ACT Poetry Prize, has since published Always Me (Burmac 2013).

Topic tags: Moya Pacey, modern Australian poems, refugees, Islam, honour killing



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Existing comments

Love these 3 poems; the last one especially, 'Sing Your landay', is very powerful and moving.
Suzanne Edgar | 25 August 2015

These beautiful, moving poems are a call to our common humanity, humanity as our saviour above all else. Love them.
Rosemary Harris | 25 August 2015

very touching Moya.
You bring us to these things we find hard to be around by taking us gently by the hand to have a look. Thankyou and hope all is well with you! Rosa
Rosa | 26 August 2015

Breathtaking, heartrending, vital narratives. Terrible stories beautifully told.
Anne Casey | 14 March 2018

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