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She Lifts Her Burka, a Prose Poem by Alicia Viguer-Espert

Photo by Steve McCurry/National Geographic Society

I wonder how tough this young Kabul woman has it. This woman who shows me her lovely fifteen-year-old face, polished nails bright red, and the green eyes of a 1985 National Geographic cover. A youth already betrothed to a man three times her age, a friend of her father’s, luckily with only one wife, she whispers. Leaning on the noise of a building’s façade to hide her dismay, or protect herself from viewers, she pushes her chaperone’s hands as they try to pull the burka back. At home family prepares Halwa and praises god for the engagement.


Nervous, asks about life in Europe, if I am allowed to dance until sunrise, how often women die in childbirth, whether I am married, and if my husband beats me. With the last question her smile disappears. I survey the snowy ridges circling us like rapacious birds starving for prey in that frigid December morning. He’s a good man, maybe he’ll let me go back to school, she says frowning.


I think about her often, her beauty, youth, pray fate will treat her with enough benevolence to raise healthy, educated children. She wouldn’t have had a chance, untrained as she was, but

her daughters did before the Taliban. Now icy clouds of misery engulf the city, women sit around clanky kerosene stoves without kerosene, debate the dangers of defying the jailers to have a life of their own, or else.


a bright light

fades fast

under the burka


Alicia Viguer-Espert, born and raised in the Mediterranean city of Valencia, Spain, lives in Los Angeles. A three times Pushcart nominee published in Lummox Anthologies, Altadena Poetry Review, ZZyZx, Panoply, Rhyvers, River Paw Press, Amethyst Review,, and Live Encounters among others. Her chapbooks To Hold a Hummingbird, Out of the Blue Womb of the Sea and 4 in 1, focus on language, identity, home, nature, and soul. In addition to national and international publications, she is included in “Top 39 L.A. Poets of 2017,” “Ten Poets to Watch in 2018,” and “Bards of Southern California: Top 30 poets,” by Spectrum.


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