Sakhi Awards Second Prize


After Shanta

By Lisa Zou

Ten times over—
she says, if you say marriage enough times,
it sounds like cage. In Nepal, Shanta scrawls
numbers in italics and paints scenery you might find
on the oldest of cave walls. Every other woman
cannot read the books Westerners come in droves with.
There are too many lessons this world has left to teach.
In Pokhara, an old woman cures a village and has no degree
like the English doctor who traveled a hemisphere to be here.

He says, an educated girl grows up to be an educated mother;
she says, and if I do not want to be a mother? There is only
silence. In Nepal, one girl writes a poem that brings an audience
a continent away to tears. In the afternoon, I translate Dickinson,
Austen, and Woolf to Shanta. She says, bearing life means death
for education. Her family name precedes her own; and her caste
is now a chain. In Kathmandu, a girl buys enough food for her family,
rat poison, and a rope. There are too many lessons this world

has taught but not the right ones. In Nepal, there are temples
more beautiful than the night sky and there are too many bowls
and not enough rice. Nights where the distance between
morning and mourning is a thread. I tell Shanta in broken Nepali
that hope has such a short lifetime.
She says, if you teach a girl enough poetry,
humanity itself becomes immortal
–ten times over.

Lisa Zou has been recognized by The Poetry Society of UK, National YoungArts Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, and the Poetry Society of Virginia, among others. Her work recently was nominated for The Pushcart Prize and won The Lindenwood Review Lyric Essay Contest. Previously, she has been mentored by poet Nancy Reddy and currently mentors high school students in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction Writing. Lisa writes most often about feminism and cultural histories. A native of Arizona, Lisa currently studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

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