An Innocent Little Girl

The little girl is innocent


they’ve put henna on her hands


they’ve plaited her hair beautifully


they’ve put kohl round her eyes


they’ve dyed her eyebrows


they’ve applied red and white makeup to her doll-like face


like poor girls’ tattered dolls


she now looks ridiculous




The little girl is innocent


she doesn’t see herself


she’s dazzled by her blouse that’s woven with gold thread


the room smells of old rose-water, milk, and sweat


breath suffocates within their chests


the women sing and dance with tambourines and


   little drums


the little girl smiles




Women tie white flowers for good fortune,


and second-hand gold jewelry


within her ringlets that are wet with sweat




The little girl thinks


                 she is a doll


the little girl is innocent


she doesn’t know anything




Her mother looks at her


emptily staring, the hollows of her eyes


filled with pain


in his own world, her father


                   counts the money


and the old bridegroom


                   is really happy




The little girl is innocent


she doesn’t know the difference between henna and blood


they’ve prepared her beautifully


for weeping,


she doesn’t know, she doesn’t know…

Dive in
  1. How old do you think the little girl is in the poem? How old is the bridegroom?


  1. Describe the speaker/persona in the poem. What, if any, are the similarities and differences between them and other characters in the poem?


  1. There is a lot of repetition in the poem. Three stanzas start with the line, “The Little girl is innocent”. Variations of the line “she doesn’t know” are also found throughout the poem. Does the repetition advance the plot? How?


  1. The poem is full of sensory language. Some of the images turn into symbols at the end of the poem through repetition and emphasis. Could you spot a few of images-turned-symbols?


  1. Should you decide to recite this poem, experiment with different ways of saying “the little girl is innocent” and “she doesn’t know”. Are these lines better said the same way each time, with gradual emphasis, or with increasing understatement? Why? Do you think this decision will change the tone of your performance?


Writing Activity


  1. Write a persona poem in which the little girl is the main speaker. Use the first person (The speaker is “I”). Address and/or describe your father, mother, the bridegroom, the guests, and the speaker of the original poem. Use refrains and repetitions.


  1. This poem is a translation. If you know another language, choose a poem in that language, and translate it into English.


Useful Links


  1. Girls increasingly at risk of child marriage in Afghanistan, Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore:


  1. Child marriage is 'a hidden crime,' and it's happening in Western nations, says survivor and advocate, CBC, The Current:



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Bibliographical info

Favzieh Rahgozar Barlas' "An Innocent Little Girl" translated by Dick Davis from The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women. Copyright © 2019 by Mage Publishers. Used with permission of Mage Publishers. All rights reserved.

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