Extraordinary essay worth the long read, on female pain, the ways we talk, write about, and perceive women’s suffering, the way we build identities around wounds or resist them. This beautifully articulates issues I think about often as a feminist and a writer.
avam asked: I notice how much I miss the poems you post when they come back. //// thank you.
Readers like you are the reason I keep posting the poetry I read here! I neglect Tumblr at times when life gets in the way, but I’m so happy you’re here.
Anonymous asked: your writing is incredible. expect a wave of reposting.
Thank you so much!
Words fall out of my coat pocket,
soak in bleach water. I touch everyone’s
dirty dollars. Maslow’s got everything on me.
Fourteen hours on my feet. No breaks.
No smokes or lunch. Blank-eyed movements:
trash bags, coffee burner, fingers numb.
I am hourly protestations and false smiles.
The clock clicks its slow slowing.
Faces blur in a stream of hurried soccer games,
sunlight, and church certainty. I have no
poem to carry, no material illusions.
Cola spilled on hands, so sticky fingered,
I’m far from poems. I’d write of politicians,
refineries, and a border’s barbed wire,
but I am unlearning America’s languages
with a mop. In a summer-hot red
polyester top, I sell lotto tickets. Cars wait for gas
billowing black. Killing time has new meaning.
A jackhammer breaks apart a life. The slow globe
spirals, and at night black space has me dizzy.
Visionaries off their meds and wacked out
meth heads sing to me. A panicky fear of robbery
and humiliation drips with my sweat.
Words some say are weeping twilight and sunrise.
I am drawn to dramas, the couple arguing, the man
headbutting his wife in the parking lot.
911: no metered aubade, and nobody but
myself to blame.
Tightened jaw, I did not love.
Flashback of myself jerked about,
legs high above my head, men
laughing, I came to sea drifts,
movement and crashing. I found I am
not so far from God exploding.
Gifting, a friend once said, is why we live.
Seven storks still and white on a gold lake.
My lazy eye glances back to that original
split, myself high above myself.
Whiplashed into forgetting, I didn’t know
hours from minutes. I was hypervigilant for
catastrophes. My head raging then numb.
The early garden bare, and now,
shocked with sudden memory,
I return to changing sky hues,
blooms of lilac bursting along sidewalks.
Lazy in the grass, I free myself of guilt,
imagine musicians in the park, us overcoming
ourselves. My eyes open before stars.
Holy these leaves, these skies.
What is torn opens for the light.
One stood among the violets
listening to a bird. One went to the toilet
and was struck by the moon. One felt hopeless
until a trumpet crash, and then lo,
he became a diamond. I have a shovel.
Can I turn it into a poem? On my stove
I’m boiling some milk thistle.
I hope it will turn into a winged thesis
before you stop reading. Look, I’m topless!
Listen: approaching hooves!
One drowned in a swimming pool.
One removed his shoes
and yearned off a bridge. One lives
with Alzheimer’s in a state facility, spittle
in his white beard. It
turns out words are no help.
But here I am with my shovel
digging like a fool
beside the spilth and splosh
of the ungirdled sea. I can’t stop.
The horses are coming, the thieves.
I still haven’t found lasting love.
I still want to hear viols
in the little beach hotel
that’s torn down and gone.
I want to see again the fish
schooling and glittering like a veil
where the waves shove
against the breakwater. Gone
is the girl in her white slip
testing the chill with one bare foot.
It’s too cold, but she goes in, so
Fuck this blood moon and fuck every other bloody moon that drains me of all life force and fuck the crescent moons of blood under my fingernails and fuck my body only good for some kind of slow sacrifice to reminders of wasted fertility and fuck useless eclipses that never, ever bring change or love.
A hole to see the sky through, 1971
Translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
My mother is obsessed with reading about Jesus these days.
I see books piled by her bed, most of them borrowed from my library: novels, handbooks, sectarian polemics, writers coming to blows. Sometimes when I’m passing by her room she calls on me to step between them and resolve their disputes. (A little while ago I came to the aid of a historian called Kamal Salibi, whose forehead had been split open by a Catholic stone.)
What a diligent reader she is when she’s searching for Jesus, this woman I never failed to disappoint: I was not martyred in the first intifada, nor in the second, nor in the third. And just between you and me, I won’t be martyred in any future intifada either, nor will I be killed by some booby-trapped stork.
As she reads, her orthodox imagination crucifies me with every page…. while I do nothing but supply it with more books and nails.
South Vietnam, April 29, 1975: Armed Forces Radio played Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” as a code to begin Operation Frequent Wind, the ultimate evacuation of American civilians and Vietnamese refugees by helicopter during the fall of Saigon.
Milkflower petals on the street
like pieces of a girl’s dress.
May your days be merry and bright …
He fills a teacup with champagne, brings it to her lips.
Open, he says.
Outside, a soldier spits out
his cigarette as footsteps
fill the square like stones fallen from the sky. May all
your Christmases be white as the traffic guard
unstraps his holster.
His hand running the hem
of her white dress.
His black eyes.
Her black hair.
A single candle.
Their shadows: two wicks.
A military truck speeds through the intersection, the sound of children
shrieking inside. A bicycle hurled
through a store window. When the dust rises, a black dog
lies in the road, panting. Its hind legs
crushed into the shine
of a white Christmas.
On the nightstand, a sprig of magnolia expands like a secret heard
for the first time.
The treetops glisten and children listen, the chief of police
facedown in a pool of Coca-Cola.
A palm-sized photo of his father soaking
beside his left ear.
The song moving through the city like a widow.
A white … A white … I’m dreaming of a curtain of snow
falling from her shoulders.
Snow crackling against the window. Snow shredded
with gunfire. Red sky.
Snow on the tanks rolling over the city walls.
A helicopter lifting the living just out of reach.
The city so white it is ready for ink.
The radio saying run run run.
Milkflower petals on a black dog
like pieces of a girl’s dress.
May your days be merry and bright. She is saying
something neither of them can hear. The hotel rocks
beneath them. The bed a field of ice
Don’t worry, he says, as the first bomb brightens
their faces, my brothers have won the war
and tomorrow …
The lights go out.
I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming …
to hear sleigh bells in the snow …
In the square below: a nun, on fire,
runs silently toward her god —
Open, he says.
There’s a joke that ends with — huh?
It’s the bomb saying here is your father.
Now here is your father inside
your lungs. Look how lighter
the earth is — afterward.
To even write the word father
is to carve a portion of the day
out of a bomb-bright page.
There’s enough light to drown in
but never enough to enter the bones
& stay. Don’t stay here, he said, my boy
broken by the names of flowers. Don’t cry
anymore. So I ran into the night.
The night: my shadow growing
toward my father.