Tuesday Poem

I Never Knew When I Arrived In This Country

That my pillow might hold your scent
as I tried to sleep, beginning to know
you were with your first wife and son

That my dowry bought
you and your parents
a larger house in Richmond.

That if I believed you each time you warned
you'd hurt me and our baby if I left,
I would only feed the rakshas inside you.

That our elders' protests, our daughter's
brimming eyes, and my shame
might mean nothing to you

That I did not have to live
with a man shouting,
“I didn't choose to marry you!”

That the library and the internet
are such private places
to find shelters and friends

That if I threatened to show your boss
my bruises, it could stop you, mid-strike
and I'd smell your thwarted breath

That I wouldn't be raped
by a policeman or prostituted
in a shelter if I called for help.

That other women have seen
the noose of Yama move behind
their husband's eyes, and survived

That I wouldn't have to take
my three-year-old girl and leave
our home — instead, you would.

That if I did decide to leave and divorce,
someone in this country
would pay fairly for my work

That I could find one room with a stove
and a fridge, and live with
my daughter, on my own.

But I know now.

by Shauna Singh Baldwin
from The Fieldstone Review,
Issue 3, May 2008