To my daughter I will say,
‘When the men come, set yourself on fire’
– In love and In War, Warsan Shire
“Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth” is a collection of poetic works by poet Warsan Shire. The collection is centered around what women experience during times of struggle and war.
The poem “Your Mother’s First Kiss” tells the story of a woman taking a bus only to find that the driver is the man who raped her and fathered her child.
Your Mother’s First Kiss
The first boy to kiss your mother later raped women
when the war broke out. She remembers hearing this
from your uncle, then going to your bedroom and laying
down on the floor. You were at school.
Your mother was sixteen when he first kissed her.
She held her breath for so long that she blacked out.
On waking she found her dress was wet and sticking
to her stomach, half moons bitten into her thighs.
That same evening she visited a friend, a girl
who fermented wine illegally in her bedroom.
When your mother confessed I’ve never been touched
like that before, the friend laughed, mouth bloody with grapes,
then plunged a hand between your mother’s legs.
Last week, she saw him driving the number 18 bus,
his cheek a swollen drumlin, a vine scar dragging itself
across his mouth. You were with her, holding a bag
of dates to your chest, heard her let out a deep moan
when she saw how much you looked like him.
Feature: Mark Reidy at flickr, Creative Commons