"Betrayal" Poetry Contest Winners / March 2013 (Issue 20)

The Virgin From Gibeah

by Ian Chung

 Can I just say it bothers me
being left behind to survive,
when both our bodies should have been
surrendered to be bruised, broken
by the brutal, punishing use
of my neighbours' perversity?

It's like a second betrayal
being alive, being intact,
as if my hands heaved her across
the hearth just like her husband's did,
as if it were my fault for not
fulfilling my father's offer.

All night I heard her cries, piercing
the walls and settling in my gut,
until I felt as ill as though
I were lying there beside her,
penetrated by these strangers,
mindlessly screaming to be heard.

It still wakes me up, makes my feet
ache to escape to a new town
where nobody knows my name yet
or what I've done, this knowledge that
she's gone and I can't bring her back
even if I wanted to try.

For it was my hands that covered
her nose and mouth before dawn broke,
and every night they twitch with me
in a foreign bed, still tingling
from contact with the bloodied face
of a dismembered concubine.
This is a Finalist of Cha's "Betrayal" Poetry Contest. Read a description of the poem by Ian Chung here. [Read Andrew Barker's commentary on this poem here.] [Return to the "Betrayal" section.]
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