In “Honor” of “Half The Sky”


Honor killing

The knife slides in
with force.
She is thinner than he’s remembered,
collarbone sharp
as hook he thrashes
Mind snags heart, but
cannot aim for breast;
only knife can look
past nipple.
Smaller than
he’s remembered,
with too-soft skin that folds within
whites of eyes big as
He tries to think
of flame, the veiled
body of smoke, the dried
bone of ash, but blood–
in honor of
the righteous
Why has she made him
do this
with force.


I’ve revised and rewritten this older poem (from my book, Going on Somewhere) after seeing the first half of the wonderful documentary by Nicholas Kristoff (of The New York Times) HALF THE SKY – about the opppression of women around the globe.   (The name comes from the idea that women hold up half the sky.)  The second half of the film will be on PBS tonight.  It is inspiring/heart-breaking.  My poem happens to deal with honor killings, but there is plenty of other violence and oppression of women going on among communities of many different cultural and religious backgrounds – unprosecuted  rape, sex trafficking, neglect.   Awful stuff; important to know–and do something– about; helping/educating women a key to helping the planet on almost every level.

I am posting this for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night, hosted by the marvelous Hedgewitch, a/k/a Joy Ann Jones.

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46 Comments on “In “Honor” of “Half The Sky””

  1. hedgewitch Says:

    This is brutally evocative, the feelings so intense…a difficult subject to write about, but you’ve pulled it off well, k. The repetition of ‘fountains’ is eerie and very effective. Thanks also for the heads-up on a film people need to see.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. The film is excellent. The women, especially, that have started these organizations abroad are incredibly brave. They also happen to be amazingly beautiful. It is odd as Kristoff brings famous actresses along to get publicity for the causes, but the women themselves are just so much more beautiful. (No offense to the actresses.) k.

  2. oh heck k. – that made my heart stop – what a raw poem about such a terrible and difficult to-write-about topic…kudos…*pulls her hat*

  3. Rene Says:

    Thank you for writing about this tough topic. And for the heads up on the film.

  4. Powerful… very powerful. Shocking and touching and saying things that need saying.

  5. Jinksy Says:

    A haunting image – and words…

  6. The Enfant Terrible Says:

    WOW! Such vivid imagery. I love it. You’ve chosen your words so well; I really like it when poets use the least number of words to convey optimum meaning. Excellent.

  7. This really grabbed me: “only knife can look past nipple”

    I love your layered meanings in the last four lines:

    “Why has she made him”
    “Why has she made him righteous”
    “righteous do this with force”
    “do this with force” (talking to himself, all the while)

    Excellent piece. Haunting.

  8. Steve King Says:

    Powerful. Hard to believe that if we somehow stripped away the artistry here, we’d be left with journalism, reality. It’s hard to imagine this happening, but it does, all the time.

  9. brian miller Says:

    honor killings…even the name of them makes little sense you know…ugh, vivid piece…will have to check out that documentary as well…saw an incredible one the other night on PBS about carl sandburg….ugh though on the oppression of women…or children or anyone anywhere….glad you will speak up…

  10. Oh this is very powerful, it made me cringe and it makes me so angry that this goes on…

  11. wood Says:

    this is very well composed, loved the visuals, very tightly packed. and the ending a rather surprising turn. this documentary sounds interesting, i will have to check that out.

  12. Ravenblack Says:

    Horrific. It might be crass to say this, but I’m glad I wasn’t born into a community like that. This sort of thing never fails to invoke within a feeling of rage nonetheless.

  13. Poet Laundry Says:

    Thanks for keeping these issues at the forefront with this write. The sufferings of these women are stories that should be told.

  14. ayala Says:

    Karin, a vivid and powerful piece.

  15. Archna Says:

    Such a chilling piece, the photo also. Raw and smooth in describing her loss of spirit throughout the piece. Really nice to see someone speak up against this sort of human tragedy. A great piece, thank you.

  16. That’s some trick, cool enough that I could keep reading without running away but wrenching enough that I didn’t breathe while I did.

  17. sonny Says:

    read it slowly…word to word…..
    they never make them do it….no….not ever…
    you did a wonderful job here…

  18. very vivid, chilling…a gut-wrenching poem…only the knife can look beyond the nipple….. feels great to come across a voice raised against this horrific practice..thanks

  19. kimnelson Says:

    As a wordsmith, I adore your brevity, the sharpness of diction and form. I, too, have read Kristoff’s work and marvel at how you impart the message in this form.

  20. Sabio Lantz Says:

    Peverse — the poem is peverse: a mirror of the heart and hands of the peverse killers — of them.
    Well ‘executed’. Making us worry about you for writing such a thing is part of the power of your poem — “Thanks”, I guess.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Hmmm… Certainly the poem is not intended to excuse violence against women in any way. I think that the killers do try to justify themselves; I do not believe there is a justification. The poem’s trying to present a picture, no kind of excuse. k.

      • Sabio Lantz Says:

        Oh, sorry, you misunderstood me. I did not think it was an excuse. It just painted a picture from an almost sympathetic perspect of a cold killer in ways — thus “peverse”. I think you did it very well.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        On the one level, these issues are complex – on another – and I think the true level – they are absolutely simple – it’s all wrong wrong wrong wrong terrible terrible. The violence inexcusable horrible hateful cannot be rationalized.

        But I kind of doubt that the killers are exactly cold, at least not some of them. I try to think how someone must feel if they are going after a sister. I can’t imagine how it’s possible and yet it happens all the time, right?

  21. the title hints at the strength of whats to come . . .
    and you do the subject the justice it deserves in the round . . .
    i ,for one, could ask no more!

  22. Powerful write.

    There can never be honour in killing…

    Anna :o]

  23. ladynyo Says:

    Oh K, this is chilling and all too common….regardless the brutality/culture it takes…

    On something that relates…..part of a world wide oppression is the mutilation of women through circumcism. It is done in many cultures, even some Christian. This barbaric practice attempts to cut out a biological foundation of womanhood.

    A marvelous and evocative poem, K.


    Lady Nyo (Jane)

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Jane. You are absolutely right. I was writing about that this morning, not such a great poem, but will probably post later as it’s such an important issue that any light shone one it is worth it. Thanks. k.

      • ladynyo Says:

        K….I had some close experience with this horror. not directly, thank god, but I was a belly dancer for 8 years and worked with women from the Sudan, Somalia, parts of Egypt and Northen Africa and Algeria…all dancers. Some who had suffered this mutilation. there are four forms of it, each progressively more horrific than the last. That women are starting to speak out against this brutality world wide needs to be heard by humanity. The proceeds (royalties) of my second book: “The Zar Tales” go to to a woman’s group in Turkey. I write a lot about Berber and Turkish women. Luckily, they aren’t sacrified to this horror.

        Can’t wait to read your poem.

        Lady Nyo (Jane)

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Oh my goodness. I can’t wait to read your book– so interesting. (Well not the FGM stuff – which is just horrible.) But the dancing. What amazes me about a lot of the women is how incredibly generous they are in spite of terrible experiences. (I don’t mean the ones that go on perpetrating the horrors – that’s also amazing but in a very different way.) k.

  24. PJF Sayers Says:

    In a word, Karin, “haunting”. A subject which is not easy to write about at all. I like the use of short lines, it gives immediacy to the piece. Well done.


  25. I’m sorry that I missed that film…… But your poem certainly says a lot about the things women have endured and should never have to. I normally try not to cross cultural lines because It can sometimes cause more friction than good. But some things are just so inherantly far from Godly intention that it is hard to ignore…. Nice poem Karin……

  26. janehewey Says:

    once again, k., this is courageous. full of compassion and relentless truth.

  27. Powerful, important, …point of view eerie in hopes of understanding how anyone can execute someone they love(d). aaarrrrrgh.

  28. vb holmes Says:

    Tough to read–good job capturing the feellings of the perpetrator.

  29. hobgoblin2011 Says:

    I love this. Such a consistent bite, a great tone throughout. Strong in every sense.

  30. Raven Says:

    The sadness of such terrible torture and injustice. You have written about it well.

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