First Place Poetry: "Lack of Evidence"
by Wendy White Cleveland '70
Wrapped in a light orange veil
she sits on a stone bench
in a crowded courtroom in Katsina,
its ceiling fans moving hot air
like gossip passing over parched tongues.
Sentenced to stoning,
she has slept with dread,
every night the same image –
up to her waist in the sand-filled pit,
her unveiled head battered and bloody
under the rain of stones.
Her eyes stare at the floor
as she holds her daughter, hearing
but not understanding impropriety and adultery,
saddened by the disappearance of her lover
whose promises are nothing but wind-swept ash.
Perhaps it was her frightened eyes
staring from magazine covers
that prompted worldwide outrage
over holy laws in a land where
hands are severed for stealing goats.
Maybe the thought of their own heads
pummeled by stones of strangers
force her accusers to acquit her
in the sweltering heat of this crowded room,
verdict unheard by all the others
whose pits are dug far from Katsina
where reporters cannot hear rock striking bone.