Poems

Virginity

For a bride, her virginity is just as important as her eyes, if not more so. According to our country’s traditions, if a bride isn’t a virgin, she’s taken back to her parents’ house after her wedding and made to sit astride a donkey while wearing a wonciò. This is considered a disgrace for the whole family. During the war, people from the cities took refuge in the countryside and, in order to integrate, made many sacrifices. Many would shoulder twenty litres of water home even if the well was three or four kilometres away. By 1981, I was sheltering in Adi Hamuscté, about twenty kilometres from Asmara. One afternoon, a handsome youth and four old men showed up and they told me that the young man, whom I’d never seen before that day, wished to marry me because the previous day he’d suffered the misfortune of learning that his bride had been violated! If my father agreed with the prospective groom and I refused their proposal, I would have run the risk of being married off against my will, or worse, to be cursed by my father. Children greatly fear the might of their parents’ curses! It was then that an idea occurred to me, which was to claim that I too had suffered an irreparable incident! I’ll leave you to picture my father’s reaction, whom was equally disgraced by my revelation in our community’s eyes. The young man, for his part, went off wordlessly in search of his virgin!

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