Dec 26, 2011

Piercing


First they pierce your ears
burden your soft lobe with heavy jewels that hang
wrap chains around your neck
fit a band around your finger
then the final piercing
unquenchable
always to be filled
always to be completed
by a man 






Dec 12, 2011

Perplexity


You went back to your pen so quickly
You didn’t shove the books off your desk in anger
You didn’t lose sleep
Or bang your fist on your blank papers in loss of words in absence of muse
You went on writing verse after verse, painted feeling after feeling
You were flooded with my gone-ess
While I, a shattered glass vase; lay redundant on your sill
My myriad pieces dumb; reflecting the rain falling on your window
Perplexing the clouds, I shimmer in the very little sunlight;
in hope I will someday feel.




Dec 7, 2011

Embraces

How is your beautiful heart?
I think of you on this dull grey morning
as I winter my coffee with sugar
and cream.

I think of you on this cold lonely evening
as I stir the thickening soup
sending you a thousand unspent
embraces.




Dec 5, 2011

Broken people



A blind moth trembles inside the lamp shade above my head,
its paper wings flap violently, desperate for an exit,
trapped in the illusion of light.
I am trapped in this cognitive skull
always looking through these two sockets for an alternative
I leave the light on because I haven’t finished looking
I can’t close my eyes because I haven’t finished looking
when my sadist past makes love to me, my feelings don’t belong to me
its breath hastens and with a final thrust it cups my breast and whispers
broken people are drawn to broken people my love.





Nov 27, 2011

Who sleep alone


I don’t claim to know anything
other than how night obediently tilts its head to morning
and life in its endless week never tires of opening and closing flowers
for those of us who sleep alone and set one plate on the table
laughter has a different meaning
to us the sound of one fork clinking to one knife is reason
to us the stillness of the moth on the wall is a second shadow
to us memories are either before or after
to us the ticking of hours grow louder after midnight
we lay in our coffin cold beds repeating
age is but a little box in which we press ourselves




Nov 21, 2011

Absence


The wind often carries your voice
enveloped in a dream

sometimes the shadow of your arm reaches out with mine
in a trivial gesture; when turning off the lamp  
or closing and laying down a book

I wish to unwrap from your caging murmur
to feel the gentle falling of night

only you can touch darkness 
put the twitching flicker of candles to rest

next to me you lie
always in your absence.



Celibate


Celibate, she lives in one country
and calls another home,
weighing the dearth of options;
be, or not be with a man?

Her female belongings
even in number, not in worth
divided
between two continents
loneliness and alone.



Little Heart


Your little heart pounded inside me
day and night
I fed you all those thoughts
pumped my sadness inside you
my feelings spiralled into the darkness of my womb
injecting you with tainted images I saw
with all the broken souls that touched me.
and you; so small, so helpless
how powerful my weak female body was:
moulding you, weaving your complex mind
stitching every patch of skin that covered your bones
every idea I had, I channelled through you; perhaps
that’s why you came out looking so wrinkly and old

And never before and never after, would I, the woman
be given so much authority on the human race.



Shudder

Autumn returns
with its floating leaves
descending like graceful dancers  
a heart curls in the
frosty corner of its hardened pupa  

throw me the crumbs of your half burnt loves
the leftovers of your copious content
the ragged desires you’ve outgrown
throw me a drop of calm to steady this violent shudder

or throw me a bone

a crochet shawl
a tattered blanket
a flickering candle
any scarce warmth will do.




Nov 15, 2011

What to do with your wedding photos after your divorce

There would be one photo you’d want to keep
your dress: gorgeous, your hair: glossy
the virgin sparkled and danced in your eyes; a wild
barefooted gypsy
the hopeless romantic you used to be
the one who believed in fait and happiness ever after.
All the time and effort invested in that mad ceremony
seems to have paid off in this photo.
You’d also want to keep it for your child to see in the future
that one moment of pure bliss they never witnessed.
But the rest you throw away; I first thought I should burn them
but I don’t like the smell of burning, fire makes me nervous
and well who needs that drama after you’ve survived THAT drama!

But there was that photo his mother took for keeps sake
and the one he took when there was still hope
what happens to those? Do you ask for them to be returned to you?
Or do they sit in their drawers and old chocolate boxes, every
decade found by a new pair of curious little fingers:
Mum! Who’s this?
Oh! That was his first wife, that woman he once knew.











Nov 4, 2011

Why didn't you tweet?

I checked again if you have shared anything new with the world, or the 28 people who follow you on Twitter! Your last tweet was “tea and biscuits” and that was yesterday! You have shared nothing else since you’ve had your tea and your biscuits.
You’ve blocked me on facebook because this is how you tell me you are angry; this is how you tell me we are through. And I, angered by your behaviour have withdrawn my following of your musings on Twitter; because this is how we express our anger, the changing in our feelings towards one another, we let each other out of our electronic lives, out of our electronic thoughts, this artificial cyber world we share with the our artificial cyber friends; flat pictures of themselves a year ago when their hair was different, or last month when they were on holiday to Venice, or their new born child, or their new born grandchild, or a flower, or their pet dog, or with their friends around a dinner table in a restaurant with the camera focused on the Chinese food and they all are doing the peace sign. Our facebook friends; some we’ve never met before, and some we have met only once, a very long time ago and we can hardly remember their voice or what it was we talked about and yet they sometimes share with us their most intimate secrets:

“I feel I am nothing, nobody, I don’t want to live” followed by a sad face using a colon and a bracket and in some cases an apostrophe to suggest a tear drop.

“My vibrator and I are very happy together, it’s the most fulfilling relationship I’ve ever had, and best of all it doesn’t hog the bed.. LOL” followed by a happy face with double brackets for exaggerated laughter.

Or those facebook friends who simply repeat the news, they repost news articles we’ve already read, or chose not to read because they’re too trivial or too disturbing. They are not sad, they are not happy, we never know what they are feeling or experiencing or going through, they never even tell us if they are having tea or biscuits! All they do is repost the news. They are our boring facebook friends, we never notice them when they are gone and when they are on facebook we never bother reading their old news posts about some celebrity giving birth to a baby and naming it Apple! Why on earth would you name your child after a fruit? Nobody knows.
Then there are our facebook friends who want to include us indirectly into their lives, they post their favourite songs, the song that represents their feelings on that particular day and they tell us to listen. They say: “listen, listen to this wonderful song” obliquely hinting that it express them well, and it is sad, or triumphant, or such an old song by one artist or the other and leaves us wondering why are they bothering with it so much, but we listen to it (sometimes) and we say something like “great song (kiss)” or “good choice (wink) (heart shape) (wink, wink)”. Because today it’s cooler to say: “I heart this”, than to say: “I love this”. Today, it’s cooler to ‘wink’ than to ‘smile’, it’s cooler to kiss than not to kiss. So we kiss and wink and heart each other, only we do it from a far, we don’t mean it, we’re not really kissing, we wouldn’t dare kiss if we were sitting opposite each other say at a cafe and you said: “here listen to this ancient song by the Smiths” and I would say: “great song” wink shamelessly at you, grab you by the collar and plant a dozen smooches on you, would I? It’s all unreal, artificial, flat, cyber, imaginary, one-sided, one dimension nothingness and we are swimming in it, every moment of the day. My flat faced friends in London post what a terrible day at work they are having at noon, but my flat faced friends in Shanghai have already ended their day and are posting pictures of the dinners they are making, whilst my flat faced friends in New York have just woken up and are posting poetic verses about the beauty of the morning light, the divinity of a new day written by dead poets who will never see the light or experience the divinity of the beginning of day.
Pushing through the news of war, riots, revolutions, oppression and corruption we post funny pictures, witty sayings and we steal them from our friends and repost them, always mentioning where we stole them from because that makes us ethical, we don’t steal without referencing unless we are poets, writers, politicians or academics of course. But here on facebook we call it sharing; sharing ideas not stealing them, always mentioning the source but telling it differently “Watch this it’s hilarious.. LOL” while our predecessor wrote: “This is tasteless” followed by many exclamation marks to emphasize the vulgarity and a riddled unsure face; an I don’t like this face, but I don’t want to appear like a total party pooper what do you think face.
We add new people and the number of our friends increases, we notice this, until it reaches a certain threshold then we stop noticing. Friends of friends; do we trust friends of friends? Yes we do, but do we trust everyone? No we don’t, so we hide, we hide information and reveal information, we’re not sure, not quite sure, it’s all very daunting.

Lucky for me even when you stop following someone on Twitter you can still see their activity. You still have not shared anything new with the world or with the 28 people who follow you on twitter, have you done nothing since you’ve had tea and biscuits?




Woman



Once a month she opens herself.
her flesh pink folds let slip an incomplete existence
red lava rolls down her inner thigh
around the bath tub it spins dizzy with warm desire,
with a final suck, the drain groans.
 






Nov 2, 2011




Lid off

Lid on

Lid off

Lid on

Lid off

After you have fallen in love; truly in love,
drained out of your contents in love,
eaten whole and left nothing but bone in love.
You feel like a tin box of Quality Street chocolates that’s been
emptied from its jewel coloured riches and filled with dry lentils.

Every time someone was fooled by your colourful exterior, they came closer; once they open you up, there’s nothing but limp, tiny stones, dead and repulsively orange, rattling aimlessly from side to side.

it doesn’t matter what they fill you with after the lentils are gone
it doesn’t matter if they fill you up at all
you were always empty.



Nov 1, 2011

After I hate you

This poem has recently been published in the Bad Language anthology, the theme was "bad language", hence the foul language in the poem.




After I hate you



After ‘I hate you’, ‘Damn you’ and ‘Get the fuck out of my house’

there is a silence.

A profound, mature, heavy silence,
more sustained than the silences which
separated their routine arguments.

His tooth brush
his shaving cream
his mule slippers lay untouched.

She turns their family photos face down
their smiling faces too judging.

Everything is divided:

Things he may come back for,
things safe to get rid of,
things that are hers.

Mutual dreams that have expired,
dreams that survive him,
dreams that are hers.

Mind calculating the loss.
Heart filing memories to be kept
and those to be discarded.
Body lies cold and disconnected.







Oct 25, 2011

in my filth


It sped from behind stacked shoes on the wooden rack
with my hesitant stomp and its swift sprint
I cracked four of its matchstick hairy legs
the sound like crushed crisps
it contracted quickly into itself, like closed fingers,
like the shrinking pupil of an eye
lying there, playing dead - this mastermind
turning inside itself – crippled, human in its agony.

I swept it casually with the blue dustpan and brush
hurled it down the kitchen bin, it fell inside the dark
stumbled against rotten apple cores and broken egg shells
the stink of expired cheese and the whiff of decaying meat
caught in dead strands of hair and soiled tissues
the disturbing sound of its saved legs unfolding against foul waste   
the goo and reek of old stew, mouldy bread and hamster’s dung
deeper it fell, trying to hang on the slippery folds of the black plastic bag
defeated by grease, slime and muck.

Never again will this opportunistic hunter spin its silk
fiercely gaze into the eyes of its prey, its glands drooling venom
never will it chew off its copulating mate’s head
regurgitate in the mouths of its young a masticated wasp
it’s eight spectacular eyes darken under the grime
dying slowly in my filth.


Oct 16, 2011

The truest


The truest sadness is when your lips part, and someone
you dislike greatly speaks
it is walking from room to room to hasten dawn
it is telling your father you hate him with oceans between you
and it hurts, to hear it, out loud

The truest sadness is that you’ll never be opened completely
be seen clearly or heard exactly

The truest sadness is knocking on the third door
sitting on the third chair
telling it the third time
for the distant crossed legs to say
they’ll see you again next week

Next week
you’ve studied your sadness; like you were told
your sadness has restraining human eyes
your sadness likes to brush your hair the way your mother did;
humming whilst unforgiving to knots.



Oct 13, 2011

Walking to The River Ouse: Where Virginia Woolf Drowned Herself


There’s something magical about people who write words that move you, touch you and stimulate you with the feeling of self-assurance, joy, sadness, tears, pride. You feel you want to see their faces if they were alive, or stand by their grave if they were dead, you want to share with them a moment, walk their footsteps if you knew where they have trodden. In their exquisite thoughts they lit a space in your mind that once was dark, undiscovered. In the brilliance of their faculties they have rained on your barren, dry mind, ploughed and turned over its infertile soil, so that now seeds can be planted and grow into crops that will keep feeding you forever. The courage of their pen makes you feel stronger, their daring, bold, disobedient, defiant words tell you that it’s okay to go that far, and it doesn’t matter what people think. Virginia Woolf is one of those people and A Room of One’s Own is one of those books (although you might argue it’s not a book but a series of lectures delivered in Newnham College). A Room of One’s Own is a beautifully written thesis on the subject of feminism and women writers and fiction, the ideas in A room of One’s Own flow - rhythm like - not angry, not hateful, not resentful, but gentle and charming yet fierce, powerful, simple and so full of beautiful images and metaphors.

“...There one might have sat lost in thought. Thought - to call it by a prouder name than it deserved – had let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute after minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it, until - you know the little tug – the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and careful laying of it out? Alas, laid on the grass, how small, how insignificant this thought of mine looked; the sort of fish that a good fisherman puts back into the water so that it may grow fatter and be one day worth cooking and eating.”  (V. Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929).


In her book, Woolf suggests that women writers need a room of their own and a reasonable income in order to write. The room represents privacy, a place for one’s self; to reflect, think, and muse without interruption. Woolf writes from a time (late nineteenth century) when women had no choice in marriage and child bearing, a time when it was impossible for women to work and earn money, and even if they did, they could not possess the money they earned, all that women had, in reality, was their husband’s property.

"First there are nine months before the baby is born. Then the baby is born. Then there are three or four months spent feeding the baby. After the baby is fed there are five years certainly spent playing with the baby, human nature takes its shape in the years between one and five...”. Woolf then acknowledges how the most famous women novelists did not bear children: “.. looking at the four famous names; what had George Eliot in common with Emily Bronte? Did not Charlotte Bronte fail entirely to understand Jane Austen? Save for the relevant fact that not one of them had a child...” She then points out that the four women mentioned above wrote fiction, but why? She asks herself; “could it be that they all come from middle class backgrounds?” and even then she adds: “the middle class family in the early nineteenth century was possessed only of a single sitting-room between them. If a woman wrote, she would have to write in the common sitting-room, and as Ms Nightingale was so vehemently to complain, - ‘women never have a half an hour that they can call their own, she was always interrupted.’ Still, - continues Woolf - it is easier to write prose and fiction there than to write poetry or a play, less concentration is required. Jane Austen wrote like that to the end of her days. ‘How she was able to effect all this?’ her nephew writes in his memoir. ‘is surprising, for she had no separate study to repair to, and most of the work must have been done in the general sitting-room, subject to all kinds of casual interruptions..’
(V. Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929).

And reading this now, I think it is not very different for women today, minus the financial difficulty which is not as unfavourable today for women as it was once, here Woolf points out; “good novels; Villette, Emma, Wuthering Heights, Middlemarch, were written by women so poor that they could not afford to buy more than a few quires of paper at a time...”. But looking at the general challenge of finding peace of mind to write, the conditions for women today are not that much more encouraging. I consider my own life for example - keeping in mind that other women have different life styles of course, but we all generally have to work for a living even for women who have earning partners -  On a Sunday, when it is a full day off work, I wake up early to make breakfast for myself and my child, always a cooked breakfast on Sundays since there is a bit more time and you’d like to sit and enjoy your breakfast with your child and have a conversation rather than the usual week day rush before school, then I take her to the park (if the weather permits) this requires a lot of energy when the child is small and active, they want to go on all the rides, and ride their bicycles and climb trees, then ride their scooters, then eat ice-cream and so on, then it’s time to buy the groceries, then it’s time to go home and cook lunch, then it’s helping the child with their reading and writing and some simple maths (as they get older, they have more homework and more complex school projects to prepare for) and all women understand that if you want your child to do well academically you can never depend on the school alone, you must work with the child at home. Then its bath time, and dinner time, and a bedtime story. By the end of the day, when she is finally settled and sleeping in her bed I am shattered, not to mention I have some ironing to do and cleaning the house before the beginning of the week, and what time do I have left, if I wanted to sit before an empty page to write down a few thoughts? Or do a bit of painting? None, a mere hour, in which I’d rather put my feet up than sit upright on a writing desk, sometimes with a book and sometimes with cup of coffee, drained completely from whatever creative thought I had when I woke up that morning. During the week days it is worse, with work and school eating up more than three quarters of the day. And even when my child is having her dinner or watching television and I try to steal a few moments to sit at my computer, I am constantly interrupted by: Mummy I need the toilet! Mummy I can’t reach the orange juice in the fridge! Mummy what does this word mean? and so on. But this is not only my story, this is the story of all mothers who wish to write. The only advantage we have over women novelists of the late nineteenth century is that we can earn our own wages upon which we live comfortably whether or not we have partners, but this is also why we have such little time for writing.


I grew fonder of Woolf as I read more about her. How she battled against depression and mental illness throughout her life and always found comfort in her writing and her work:

“I sometimes fancy that the only healthy condition is that of doing successful work. It’s the prime function of the soul.” (from Woolf’s Diary January 21st 1920).

“Why is life so tragic, so like a little strip of pavement over an abyss. I look down; I feel giddy; I wonder how I am ever to walk to the end. Why do I feel this? It’s a feeling of impotence: of cutting no ice. Here I sit in Richmond and like a lantern stood in the middle of the field my light goes up in darkness. Melancholy diminishes as I write.”
(From Woolf’s Diary, October 25th 1920).


Her beautiful expressions:

“But I should not spend my time on an indoor chronicle, unless I lazily shirked the describing of winter down and meadow – the recording of what takes my breath away at every turn. Here is the sun out and all the upper twigs of the tree as if dipped in fire; the trunks emerald green, even bark bright tinted and variable as the skin of a lizard. Then there’s Asheham hill smoke misted; the windows of the long train spots of sun, the smoke lying back on the carriages like a rabbit’s lop ears”  (Diary, January 1920).


The missed plans for writing which all writers experience whether amateur or professional:

“Such a good morning’s writing I’d planned and wasted the cream of my brain on the telephone” (Diary April 1920).


Her fear of loneliness and finding strength and fulfilment in her work:

“Yesterday I had tea with Saxon and remembering old lonely evenings of my own, when the married couple seemed so secure and lamplit, I asked him back to dinner. I wonder whether his loneliness ever frightens him as mine used to frighten me. I daresay office work is a great preservative.” (Diary May 1920).


Her blunt and sometimes depressing views:

“The middle classes are cut so thick and ring so coarse when they laugh or express themselves. The lower classes don’t do this at all.” (Diary January 1920)
  
“Content is disillusioning to behold: what is there to be content about?” (Diary, May 1920)

“Unhappiness is everywhere; just beyond the door” (Diary, November 1920)

Her love of the younger generations and her belief that they can bring change:

“How adorable the young are, like new brooms, I long to look over their shoulders and see them sweeping clean, I much prefer them to the distinguished, wrapped soft in their reputations” (Diary, September 1922)


How she wrote passionately about illness:

“Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to light, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us in the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist’s arm chair and confuse his ‘Rinse the mouth, rinse the mouth’ with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us – when we think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken  its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature. Novels, one would have thought, would have been devoted to influenza; epic poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia, lyrics to toothache. But no...”  (On Being Ill, 1926).

I went on a journey to East Sussex to visit the place where Virginia Woolf’s ashes are buried; she (as it is well known) drowned herself in The River Ouse after a long battle with depression. I had read on the internet that her ashes are buried in the back garden of Monk’s House, a small country house, where she and her husband Leonard Woolf lived at the time. Monk’s House is located in a small, peaceful village called Rodmell just outside Lewes. It has been kept the way Leonard left it after his death in 1969, and Virginia’s room is still kept as she had left it after her death in 1941. I was looking forward to seeing where their ashes were buried in the back garden (as Leonard’s ashes were buried next to Virginia’s) but it was explained to us that the ashes were buried under an elms tree that was pulled down by a storm and there were no other marks to distinguish the place of burial. Other than that, it was a remarkable experience, I felt enchanted as I walked in Virginia’s house, it was small, but beautiful and very well kept, paintings by her sisters Vanessa decorated the walls. The lady from National Trust who works in the house and guides visitors, explained that Virginia did all her writing in a small shed outside in the garden, and had added a room as an extension to the house in the later years of her life which she had planned to be a “room of her own” where she can write, but she was very ill and soon the study was turned into a bed room where she spent most of her nights with a small side bedside table.

I left the house and asked for direction for the river where Virginia Drowned herself, it was a 30 minute walk in the fields, nothing but a narrow path, and stretched green fields with a spot of cattle here and there. The River Ouse was quiet and peaceful, and due to (what I suspect) a few dry seasons, the water level of the river was low but still reasonably deep. The Ouse had a sense of bleakness and a feeling of loneliness and abandonment to it.


Leonard Woolf's study
Virginia Woolf's bedroom  (was later built as an extension to Monk's House)


Monk's House
Monk's House back garden




this is where Virginia would have walked to get to the River Ouse.

The River Ouse.


Going back to A Room of One’s Own, Woolf speaks against the educated men of her time who argued that women are inferior to men, such as Mr. Oscar Browning (writer and historian at Cambridge) who once declared: ‘that the impression left in his mind after looking over any set of examination papers, was that, irrespective of the marks he might give, the best woman was intellectually the inferior of the worst man’. Woolf uses one of her beautiful metaphors and provides that it’s vital for those men to see women as inferior to them, she explains how women have a looking glass likeness to life:


“Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man twice its natural size... that is why Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for if they were not inferior they would cease to enlarge. That serves to explain in part the necessity that women so often are to men. And it serves to explain how restless they are under her criticism, how impossible it is for her to say to them this book is bad, this picture is feeble, or whatever it may be, without giving far more pain and arousing far more anger than a man would do who gave the same criticism. For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgement, civilizing natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is...”

And yet, as Woolf acknowledges, women have always been the centre and subject of men’s writing:

“women have burnt like beacons in all the works of writers from the beginning of time – Clytemnestra, Antigone, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Phedre, Cressida, Rosalind, Desdemona, the Dutchess of Malfi, among the dramatists; then among the prose writers: Millamant, Clarissa, Becky Sharp, Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, Madame de Guermantes – the names flock to mind..”.Woolf continues: “She is a person of the utmost importance, very various; heroic, and mean; splendid and sordid; infinitely beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as man, some think even greater..”


But Woolf doesn’t forget the great men who valued the opinion of the women in their lives:

“.. Johnson and Goethe and Carlyle and Sterne, and Cowper and Shelley, and Voltaire and Browning and many others, and I began to think of those great men who for some reason or another admired, sought out, lived with, confided in, made love to, written of, trusted in, and shown what can only be described as some need of a dependence upon certain persons of the opposite sex. That all these relationships were absolutely Platonic I would not affirm, but we should wrong these illustrious men very greatly if we insisted that they got nothing from these alliances but comfort flattery and the pleasure of the body. What they got, it is obvious, was something that their own sex was unable to supply; and it would not be rash, perhaps to define it further as some stimulus, some renewal of creative power which is in the gift only of the opposite sex to bestow...”  



A Room of One’s Own (1929) was reviewed by both men and women as charming, witty, energetic and humorous. After all, Woolf does not in her writing of this book oppose the domination of men, and she concludes that women can write and succeed as writers even in the climate of male supremacy which existed at the time. But when she published her final and much more daring and highly controversial book on feminism Three Guineas (1938), where Woolf argues that sexism itself is both the root and the flower of the male dominated hierarchies and - when the book was written - was leading the world into global conflict, Woolf became the subject of much criticism. The image of the father who is a pork butcher associates blood and brutality with patriarchy. Contemptuous of influential and successful men, Woolf describes them as owners of the slaughterhouse. Three Guineas was to make explicit the connection to the butchery of war. (Black 2004). In Three Guineas, Woolf found a way to demonstrate that opposition to fascism was a necessary implication of understanding the situation of women, where she links domestic and private fascism to the public fascism that was expanding so hideously in Europe. Woolf provides:
“that the public structures of dominations and oppression can best be combated by elimination of private ones. Therefore war and other horrors of the public world must be fought through opposition to the most subjugation, the subjugation of women”.
Her arguments in Three Guineas were not accepted by many and induced severe criticism and opposition towards Woolf. Her nephew Quentin Bell insisted that Three Guineas was an irrational cry of feminine anguish; he called it “a saddening and exacerbating production”. The son of Woolf’s dear friend Vita Sackville-West described Three Guineas as “neither sober, nor rational”, another review described it as “sublimation and the feeling of helplessness and self-hatred”, and another review described it as “the triumph of narcissism”.

As I was reading Three Guineas sitting on a sofa at home and my five year old daughter playing on the floor, I came to Woolf’s lines “women are both the worst sufferers of current conditions and also the best prospect for societal change. Partly because women have remained relatively powerless they have developed practices and attitudes that can counter the tyrannies we all suffer from. Women activists have demonstrated that the private virtues imposed on them, brought deliberately into public life, can generate hopeful results and, above all, more peaceful and productive procedures. Drawing on the lessons of their enforced seclusion, they have, in some few cases, shown that it’s possible to enter public life without being corrupted by it”. Just then I was interrupted by my daughter who told me that today at school she played with her friend Duncan, in their game, she explained, Duncan was Iron Man and she was a fairy. Indeed Iron man is strong, invincible, powerful, big, sturdy; Iron Man can kick, hit, hurt, destroy, even passively, some child could be pushed against a standing Iron man in the school playground and injure himself. While a fairy on the other hand, a fairy is fragile, weak, small, her wings brittle and can easily be plucked, although a fairy can do beautiful magical things; like putting the blue in the running water of a stream, opening and closing flowers; a fairy paints butterflies’ wings, turns tree leaves from green in spring to crimson and gold in autumn. Yet a fairy remains threatened, she must not be seen, always hidden away, she avoids humans, afraid of being caught, trapped in a jar to be studied. The smallness of her size helps her survive; she can hide inside a flower bud or under a mushroom. A fairy is made out of hazy, blurry light; making her harder to see, through this mechanism a fairy can avoid the cruelty of big, violent creatures, and by this she can continue to change the seasons and draw rainbows after the rain.


Oct 10, 2011

the mind




I’ve been wrong before
the mind is powerful;
in the darkness of night
large round sun flowers  
appeared like curious faces looking
through the glass door,
at a rushed glance the permanent nail on
the wall seems to creep on spider legs!
and in the peak of my longing for you
I’ve mentally willed you into my dreams,
our love-making just as powerful and quenching.
My mind can feed me sheer lies, mock and laugh at me
why should I believe it or trust its deduction of your volatile affection?
I won’t.


Sep 16, 2011

This solitude


Between my casual passing through your mind and
your persistence in my wakeful sleeping conscious     
a rose opens
a moonless night vanishes into twilight
a bee trapped behind the garden glass door 
fails to grasp why it cannot reach its flower

There is in this solitude a stability no union offers
there’s an honesty in this loneliness
an unspoken promise
a warmth that enters me gently like the seeping
heat of my morning coffee

I find your scent between my scattered papers
your raining sadness between my breasts

I see your sorrowful eyes in our encounters,
unhooking their blazing gaze from mine

I am in your parting a woman
learning how to forgive herself for your cruelty

My hands test the dampness of my plants’ soil
and I remember not to water your memory.



Sep 13, 2011

Do not resuscitate


Another love falls ill
loses its colour
its will

We had so many tomorrows;
tomorrow I will call to say I’m sorry
tomorrow I will write you a poem
that will steal your heart.

Tonight I lie in a pool of blue light
where the silver moon last cried
all tomorrows spent (unwise)

Flowerless this desire for you,
feral this rootless longing

If you find it between your hands again
don't resuscitate this porous heart of mine.



Sep 6, 2011

Trotting


It’s only when I saw her steering that mighty black mare
with her tiny 5 years old fingers firm on the rein
that I realized how astonishing life is
just yesterday she could hardly stand up
clutching the coffee table for support with an effort
her knuckles sweet dimples on her chubby hands.

Trotting deeper into the green fields
not turning to look if she could still see me
I squinted for my mind’s eye to measure
'this far' my thumb and index demonstrated
a mother’s mind minimizing the tragedy of distance
for a mother’s heart.


Sep 5, 2011

The Wind-Up Doll Forugh Farrokhzad: Pushing the Boundaries of Iranian Poetry






Literature in Iran has long possessed a predominantly masculine character. Conspicuously absent from it has been the presence of women as writers or critics, as makers of literary tradition. Until recently, little has been heard of women writers, painters, musicians, architects, actors, potters, calligraphers. The achievements of those women, who against all odds, managed to nurture their creative talents has remained for the most part unrecognized, invisible[1]. For centuries, the written literary potential of Iranian women has been repressed and muffled, easy access to the power, privilege, and arena of the written word was for long denied to them[2].

In Iran, a society where walls and veils have been customary and censored communication the order of the day, a new tradition of women’s poetry came into being toward the middle of the present century; a tradition of women intensely involved in self-reflection and self-revelation, not sheltered or restrained by the anonymity or opacity of the veil; a tradition of women who not only revealed themselves but also unveiled men in their writings.[3]The list includes, among others, Zand-Dokht Shirazi (1911-1925), Jaleh Esfahani (1920-2007), Simin Behbahani (1927), Mahin Sekandari (1940) and Forugh Farrokhzad (1936-1967).
These women wrote about private ideas, feelings and facts. They strove to reconcile the emotional, sensual, and social aspects of a female self. With bodies unveiled and pen in hand, they led the reader behind walls and veils to the domains of the private. However, this article’s main interest is Iran’s most significant female poet of the twentieth century Forugh Farroukhzad, as revolutionary as Russia’s Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva, and American Plath and Sexton, she wrote with a sensuality and burgeoning political consciousness that pressed against the boundaries of what could be expressed by a woman in 1950s and 1960s Iran. But Farroukhzad paid a very high price for her art; shouldering the disapproval of society and her family, losing custody of her only son after her divorce, and being sent to a mental institution.[4]

 I have sinned a rapturous sin
in warm enflamed embrace.
Sinned in a pair of vindictive arms,
Arms violent and ablaze.... [5]

Farrokhzad’s bold and unconventional poetry which are often a representation of women’s subjectivity and sexuality have elevated her to the level of a cultural icon in modern Iran. The shock of Farrokhzad’s poetry is the shock of purity; the purity of ice water, the purity of her relentless intensity. Although the dominant themes of her poetry are sexual love and despair, there is always an awareness of how the normal world tries to stifle emotion with the noose of its own deadness[6].

My whole being is a dark chant
which will carry you
perpetuating you
to the dawn of eternal growths and blossoming
in this chant I sighed you sighed
in this chant
I grafted you to the tree to the water to the fire.

Life is perhaps
a long street through which a woman holding
a basket passes everyday

Life is perhaps
a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch
life is perhaps a child returning home from school.

Life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette
in the narcotic repose between two love-makings
or the absent gaze of a passerby
who takes off his hat to another passerby
with a meaningless smile and a good morning .

Life is perhaps that enclosed moment
when my gaze destroys itself in the pupil of your eyes[7].

The third of seven children and a very mischievous little girl Forugh would not be bound and was often made bidden by her dictatorial mother and her military strict father who was quick to draw his belt. Growing up, Forugh finds refuge in her books, studies painting and dress making but remain faithful to her true love for poetry through her reading of Hafiz and Rumi. At the age of sixteen she marries a relative, fifteen years her senior, with her husband’s encouragement and support Forugh publishes her first poems in magazines and meets frequently with various editors. Her first collection Asir (Captive) gets published in 1955. Historically, the beauty of women was the subject of Iranian poetry, but now Forugh has made men her poetic subjects, her objects of love, passion and desire. By this time her poems are sought and published because of their intimacy and frankness about sexual encounters and less to do with her poetic accomplishments[8].

Let me lose myself in you
till no one can find my trace
let your dewy sighs fevered soul
waft over the body of my songs[9].

Rumours of affairs circulate and soon her marriage ends, resulting in the loss of the custody of her son. The stress of divorce, separation from her son, society’s criticism and her family’s rejection is too much for her to endure and she experiences a nervous breakdown.

“All my mental anguish is due to loneliness. When I’m alone, there is no one to inject into me good and healthy thoughts. My arms and legs get tied up with my own bleak imaginings and then I see that I can no longer have the power to resist, that I’m done with this life...”[10]


After her divorce, Forugh goes back to her parents’ home, under her father’s resentful watchful eyes they often clashed. Her relationship with her mother was also difficult, their constant quarrelling forces her to move out and live in a small rented room.

“My greatest pain is that you never got to know me and never wanted to know me, I remember when I used to read philosophy books back at home, you would tell me that I was a stupid girl whose mind has been poisoned by reading journals, I would then fall into pieces inside myself...”[11]

Farroughzad’s life style increasingly becomes the subject of gossip, scandal and fantasizing as she publically enters into relationships with numerous men. In 1958 she meets the handsome, well educated, producer Ebrahim Golestan who was also married, they have a passionate affair and Forugh is convinced she has finally met her match. Golestan doesn’t only understand her and accept her for what she is and who she is striving to become but also helps her financially to study film production and offers her a job in his own film studios[12]. Their open affair is met with further scandal and the intellectual community which Forugh so longingly wants to fit into views her affair with a married man as morally reprehensible[13].


Even more, oh yes,
one can remain silent even more.

Inside eternal hours
one can fix lifeless eyes
on the smoke of a cigarette
on a cup’s form
the carpet’s faded flowers,

One can remain fixed in one place, here
beside this curtain... but deaf, but blind.

With an alien voice, utterly false,
one can cry out: I love!
in the oppressive arms of a man
one can be a robust, beautiful female
skin like leather table cloth...[14]

Even after publishing her second collection The Wall and her third collection Rebellion she is still addressed with the title of poetess, a title which denies her the seriousness of a true poet[15].

“If my poems, as you say, have an aspect of femininity, it is of course quite natural. After all, fortunately I am a woman. But if you speak of artistic merits, I think gender cannot play a role. In fact to even voice such a suggestion is unethical. It is natural that a woman, because of her physical, emotional and spiritual inclination, may give certain issues greater attention, issues men may not normally address...”[16]


If I were God, I'd call on the angels one night
to release the round sun into the darkness' s furnace,
angrily command the world garden servants
to prune the yellow leaf moon from the night's branch.

If I were God, I'd call on the angels one night
to boil the water of eternal life in Hell's cauldron,
and with a burning torch chase out the virtuous herd
that grazes in the green pastures of an unchaste heaven.

Tired of being a prude, I'd seek Satan's bed at midnight
and find refuge in the declivity of breaking laws.
I'd happily exchange the golden crown of divinity
for the dark, aching embrace of a sin...[17]

In 1964, Farrokhzad publishes her fourth collection Reborn, this collection is immediately hailed as a major work, her poems are widely read, discussed and studied, finally she is viewed as a poet. In 1967 on her way back home from work she swerves the jeep she is driving to miss an oncoming school bus, she is thrown out of her car and her head hits the cement gutter, she dies instantly at the age of 32. In the falling snow, her funeral was attended by literary and artistic communities and hundreds of people. She was buried under the snow[18].

Let us believe in the down of the cold season.
Let us believe in the ruin of imaginary gardens,
In idle inverted scythes
In confined seeds
Look how it snows
Perhaps the truth was those two young hands
Those hands
Buried beneath snow
And in the coming year
When spring mates with sky behind the window
Fountains of green saplings will erupt
Saplings that bloom, beloved, my trusted friend
Let us believe in the dawn of the cold season...[19]

After the 1979 revolution in Iran, the new Islamic government officially banned Farroukhzad’s poems and her publisher is ordered to stop printing her books, he refuses and is subsequently jailed and his publishing house burned down[20].


Forgive her.
Sometimes she forgets
She is painfully the same
As stagnant water,
Hollow ditches,
Foolishly imagines
She has the right to be exist.

Forgive
A photo portrait’s listless rage,
Whose longing for movement
Melts in her paper eyes

Forgive
this woman whose casket is washed over
by a flowing red moon...[21]




[1] Milani, F. (1992), Veils and Words.
[2] Groningen, H. (1983), Images of women in Greek Historiography on Persia.
[3] Parispur, S. (1976), The Dog and the Long Winter.
[4] Ostriker, A, (2007), Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad.
[5] From Farrokhzad’s poem Sin, 1955.
[6] Brookshaw, D. & Rahimieh, N. (2010), Forugh Farrokhzad, Poet of Modern Iran, Iconic Woman and Faminine Pioneer of New Persian Poetry.
[7] From Farrokhzad’s poem Rebirth, 1964.
[8] See Ostriker (note 4 supra).
[9] From Farrokhzad’s poem On Loving, 1955.
[10] Farrokhzad in a letter to her ex-husband, in Esma’ili and Sedarat, Immortal Forugh Farroukhzad, 1972.
[11] In a letter written in 1957 to her colonel father, Farrokhzad shows the distance and amount of conflict between them. See Brookshaw & Rehimieh (note 6 supra)
[12] Farrokhzad was also known for producing the ground breaking 1962 documentary The House is Balck, shot in a leper colony in north-western Iran.
[13] See Brookshaw & Rahimieh (note 6 supra)
[14] From Farrokhzad’s poem Wind-Up Doll, 1964.
[15] See Ostriker (note 4 supra).
[16] A quote from Iranj Gorgin’s interview with Farrokhzad, 1964, See Milani (note 1 supra).
[17] From Farrokhzad’s poem Rebellious God, 1958.
[18] See Ostriker (note 4 supra).
[19] From Farrokhzad’s poem Let Us Believe in the Dawn of the Cold Season, 1967.
[20] See Ostriker (note 4 supra)
[21] From Farrokhzad’s poem Forgive Her, 1964.