I last saw her on her wedding day
She was beautiful in her wedding dress, with an almost perfect smile
Henna patterns wrapped around her wrists and climbed up her arms spreading blossoms;
I walked up to her and smiled
Broke tradition and talked to the bride:
“Do you love him?”
“Does it matter?”
“How long have you known him?”
“The first thing my mother taught me,” she said, “is to wipe the tears before the blood dries.”
She moved her hands to her face, fingers catching tired tears…
She was fourteen, her high school interrupted
Her parents should’ve let her stay in school because educated girls fetch bigger dowry
But her suitor didn’t mind a country girl, didn’t want an intellectual for a fourth wife
Just someone tighter than his three wives
To devour with his flesh-eating fingers—
She will have her fifth child by twenty.
I met her at school in Wajir
But no one knew her in Garissa
She had only come that morning with the night bus.
It killed me to lose her to the man next door who grew up with my father
He will crush the blossoms on her arms taking her virginity, I thought.
She doesn’t even know how to keep her mouth shut
I will hear the screams as they come
She’ll heed her mother’s advice
and wipe the tears before the blood dries.
Poem: Vincent de Paul
Image: Jonalyn San Diego via Unspalsh (modified)