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Comfort women  (ianfu) were young women, even girls, often tricked or kidnapped by the Japanese military during WWII.  They were brought to what were called “comfort stations” and forced into prostitution to serve the soldiers. Most of these women came from Korea, China, Burma and other Japanese-occupied countries.

i am comfort to them

mad, frenzied soldiers

uniforms lined up out the door

and i will know them one by one

day and night

i break apart in myself until i cannot feel

the tortured hyena mouths tear at my chest

i cut myself into bits to blind myself from the horror

the shame

that this is a comfort to them

tricked away from my village

legs like sticks squatting in the dirt

playing pebble games with my brother

dirty knees and toothy grin so shy when they ask my name

so nice, they were so nice that day

until they brought me here

and ripped away the right to my own body

my fate

my sin for being a girl, a comfort to them

i shut my eye to the brutes, the hits and filthy hands

syringe of medicine for oozing infections

from the dirty doctor who i am forced to comfort too

there is no comfort to offer dead hearts enlisted in misery

and there is no tenderness for my own heart long ago flattened and left for dead

hibiscus flower cut

set on the hot sidewalk to shrivel in the scorching sun

burning, like my insides

so i will recess far inward to keep the truth from rising

endure this comfort station as a palace of hell

i shrivel like a pink blossom plucked from its vine

shrink to know that these blisters will brand my life forever

delicate petals, scarred and left to wither on the hot road

under a mean sun

that will never, ever set


This poem won 2nd place in the Great War to End All Wars contest and published in the commemorative edition of The Diploemat.

working girls by Sarah Curtiss - to see more of her art go to

working girls by Sarah Curtiss – to see more of her art go to

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