Women spend the afternoon squatting on the porch,
picking lice from each other’s hair.
They spend the evening feeding the little ones,
lulling them to sleep in the glow of the bottle lamp.
The rest of the night
they offer their back to be slapped and kicked by the men of the house
or sprawl half-naked on the hard wooden cot.
Crows and women greet the dawn together,
the women blowing into the oven to start the fire,
tapping on the back of the winnowing tray with five fingers
and, with two, picking out the stones.
Half their lives women pick stones from the rice.
All their lives stones pile up in their hearts,
no one there to touch them even with two fingers.
by Taslima Nasrin
—Taslima Nasrin, an award-winning writer, physician, secular humanist and human rights activist, is known for her powerful writings on women oppression and unflinching criticism of religion, despite forced exile and multiple fatwas calling for her death.