Burqa

They say it’s about dignity.
A throwback to the dark ages,
denying four centuries of civilisation.

Their newspapers write about
human rights, and that faith, though
sacred, must learn to compromise.

They talk of enslavement:
it strips us of all individuality and
reduces us to chattels, they say.

Look, they whisper, there goes one.
I can’t think how they can submit
to such humiliation.

It frightens their children, they say,
and there’s something sinister
in not daring to meet face to face.

I walk their streets, safe
in my black oubliette. Thick cloth
softens whispers; the grille

in front of my eyes shuts out
their exposed flesh, shameless
behaviour, brash looks. Yes,

I have wondered what it’d be like
to feel free. But I tell myself,
Better the devil you know.


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