What Is True
by Elizabeth Simson

    Unspeakable acts,
    and yet we speak.

    Televised, eyewitness accounts testify
    a girl at age 7 has her clitoris cut off,
    the razor stained with her sister's blood,
    upholstery needles threaded through
    the flesh of her labia, sewing her up so that
    (if she survives the infections)
    she will be pure and small
    on her wedding night.

    Unspeakable acts,
    and yet we speak

    our throats taut with grief, we watch,
    lips pressed, hands close to our mouths
    in case we cry out

    We did not prevent this,
    it happened again today and we were not there
    we did not stop the hand that held the needle and the knife
    we did not talk back, we did not refuse to stand down,
    we did not rescue we did not protect we did not try
    we could have.

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