Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Response to Lorde

As a class assignment, I was asked to take a poem, quadruple space it, and then respond to each individual line of the poem in the open pace below. It was an exercise in letting go of the whole piece- in writing without knowing where the next line would come from or go. I expected it to be disjointed and awkward, but it came out as what feels for me like a true honoring response to Lorde's piece, Litany for Survival.
I suspect this is at once a poem for myself and my mother in these days where thoughts of closeness to her make my skin burn...

What We Know in Winter (temporary working title)
by Hana Malia 2009

for you who finds rest in concrete cracks
laying, seemingly floating just above a bed of nails
like they are orderly lines of school children.
for you who believes you are too much to be swallowed down whole
the welcome of rape- if no means no what does silence mean?
who fucks when you're bleeding so the mess has a name
on the avenues between sunrise East River, sunset Hudson
flailing and coiling
both fetal and nearly gone
pleading with a lover's strong back for
a moment more than right now.
you must have been breastfed to want the insides this bad-
the cycles red and inevitable
the release unbearable

for you
who knows no uncertain moves
wrinkles, stretchmarks have etched soft skin
you do not trust food to settle you
this kind of peace
this too honest tale
become mantra on tongue
in your children's sleep
this faltering straight line,
they were never meant to survive

and when the winter is not over you forget
today will be short
when the days get longer you fret
how fast your hair will grow
and when you are naked you beg for burlap coverage
turtlenecks make you fear the indoors
when your children leave you cook large meals
can only take small bites
when someone has your hip in hand, you imagine
its inevitable droop
when you are at the mercy of your own hands, you are sure
they will be the last
and when you finish in only small quiet breaths, you are amazed
at how naked a person can be
when no one else is looking
but when you cry out,
you are unconvinced

so it is better to sing into your thick pillows
this moment, just now
is enough

Litany for Survival
by Audre Lorde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children's mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

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