Poem: The Opium Bride

I still remember the day
When my father came staggering
From the fields of blood-red poppies
Like a wounded soldier
The tears that bled
From my mother’s eyes
As she laid the proposition
On the table like a shotgun.
She lied.
It wasn’t a proposition
It was an order: no choice.
You do understand?
If you don’t do this we’ll
Lose all that matters
Our status, our house, our land.

So I promised myself
To a man with eyes like
Frogspawn and hoary hands;
They were sandpaper
Wearing me away each night
A pleasure for him after
Those difficult days
Of crushing the snail-shells
Of people’s lives
Into brown powder
And watching them
As they set it alight.

I told my mother I understood
But as it turns out
I lied.
I lost everything,
Everything really important
When I was an opium bride.


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