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Poetry

My Disorder

Author:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A poem by Rousseau Duclos

Content Note: depression, EDNOS, eating disorders, mental illness, self-hatred

My disorder is just that, it’s a disorder,
a realm of chaos and confusion and hatred,
of a mind that can’t quite grasp why but can’t stop either.
My disorder is not a teenage girl with tiny thighs
and a flat stomach, with a bright, clear smile and shining eyes too,
and pale, smooth skin that glistens in the daylight.
My disorder is not a little girl with frail bones and a miniscule waist,
one that excuses herself after every meal but who returns to the table with
breath that smells like peppermints,
or who eats celery and lettuce for dinner, seemingly immune to desire.
My disorder is not your girlfriend, who never lets a single morsel pass through her lips,
but whose stomach is always gurgle-free, or the girl with perfect grades
and shiny, long blonde hair that rests down her back,
a whispered “You could save me.”
My disorder is not a speedy recovery, only one relapse and it’s not even gruesome,
with a handsome man at her side and love in the air and, Wow, wasn’t that so easy?
or midnight sex with hands running over her body, which
is still rail-thin even though she can’t stop saying how much she’s recovered.
My disorder is not love or perfection or anything remotely pleasant,
because that is a lie, perfection doesn’t exist,
and no human can survive on celery and lettuce alone.
My disorder is tears and crying and therapy sessions and hospitalizations,
desperate for help
and also consumed with the belief that nothing is wrong.
My disorder is worried parents and family meals,
just to make sure that you’re actually eating, and then bathroom doors
locked from the outside because the sound of vomiting was heard once too often.
My disorder is not beauty; it is death,
with stringy hair that crumbles in your fingertips,
yellowing teeth, and an overwhelming desire to die, or maybe
to just stop feeling everything for a moment.
My disorder is just a form of prolonged suicide,
because, without end, that’s the inevitable outcome,
an emaciated corpse that was apparently never skinny enough, even in her grave.
My disorder is not just teenage white girls, with money and friends;
it’s people in every single walk of life, of all races, all ages, all genders,
every single social stance imaginable, people with jobs or in school,
with so much potential for growth but who are forced to decay.
My disorder is never just a new weight-loss program,
and that exercise isn’t about getting healthy or being fit,
it’s about making yourself so small you disappear completely.
My disorder is, “Oh, wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight, but it looks great!”
and me clenching my teeth, because can’t you tell that for the past four weeks,
my mind has only daydreamed about the icing on your lips and the slice of bread in your hands
My disorder isn’t health, and will never be health,
it’s “fruit has too many carbs” and eating no vitamins whatsoever,
because what about the bloating?
My disorder is self-hatred, and it isn’t a choice,
it’s never been a choice, because who would chose that?
And it will never make sense.
My disorder is all of the evil and cruelty,
inflicted upon myself, and it isn’t logical,
because it’s a mental illness, brought on by a chemical imbalance in my brain.
My disorder is all the distrust I’ve ever seen in my mother’s eyes,
but it isn’t me, because I am a human being, worthy of every possibility,
and it is only my disorder that deserves to die.
My recovery is a lot of hard work, therapy sessions and a new cocktail of medications,
and sometimes it feels like it’ll never be over,
and maybe it won’t, but in the meantime, I can spend my nights thinking about a day
when I can let you run your hands over my body and not want to shrink away,
when I can run and dance because I love it and it makes me feel good, not to burn calories,
when I can finally love myself and, in turn, eventually love you too,
when I can look back without fear and see all my growth and be amazed at the pure beauty of me,
when I can raise a child and teach them to love themselves and love others too,
when I finally am free.
So, that day is not here yet, and so far the road to strength seems long and winding,
but that doesn’t matter, not now, not ever,
because I’ve come to the realization that
you deserve only the best in life,
I deserve only the best in life,
only the most love and compassion and everything you thought was cheesy as a child.
I’m going to fight to make this life the best one imaginable.

 

A new lens

Author:
Kabul. Afghanistan. 2012
A meeting of Mirman Baheer, the Ladies’ Literary Society, in Kabul.  The group has roughly one hundred members in Kabul, where they meet openly on most Saturdays. The city of Kabul is, in many ways, a bubble. Its security allows women to gather openly, a near impossibility across most of the country. Outside Kabul, there are as many as three hundred members in the outlying provinces of Khost, Paktia, Wardak, Mazar, Kunduz, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Farah. Exact numbers of members are impossible to come by, since the society operates in secret by necessity.

By Kaylen Forsyth

For a poet language is land on the water, is water on the land. The poem becomes necessary to existence, a way of transforming the physical world into something that can’t die. Like with many other art forms, its greatest assets are its humanness and intimacy. “I composed my first poems in the dark“, says Philip Levine in My Lost Poets. This is a small window into the understanding that happens between a writer and the words they either chose or don’t.

“I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can”, laments Jack Gilbert, as though deprived of self-expression his entire life.

This brings him to a shared affinity with so many women across the globe, today and always, who may be able to fathom even more thoroughly than him exactly what it’s like to be stifled. To have so much pent-up rage and passion that there is no way to coordinate any coherence. This is why poetry plays such a vital role in the lives of many women in Afghanistan.

Recently, it has become clearer than ever just how essential it is for women to have a platform that cannot be deterred by men. Such deterrence is now symptomatic of a growing rather than declining patriarchy. This struggle for a stage is a problem that the women of Afghanistan have faced so much they’ve now formed their own kind of barracks, built out of language. Amidst a country that has seen vast amounts of violence and duplicity, a number of incredibly courageous women are voicing their political and emotional concern through the power of poetry. It takes the form of a “landay”.

The simple structure of the “landay poem” features couplets with nine syllables in the first line and thirteen in the second. This frame is used by many Afghan women who constantly search for new ways to articulate in a society wishing for their silence. Women write and share their poetry any way possible. Sometimes they share via phone calls with other women who are unable to leave their homes. Or other times, they meet up secretly to discuss their creations and merge them. Distribution always takes precedence over attribution.

Western representation of Afghan women would like to ignore this. Instead, it attempts a powerless portrayal. There is such an ethnocentric trend in Western media. It wants us to view other cultures as inherently alien in their differences. This leads to mass polarisation. Some begin to view those who live differently as outlandish. Evidently, this eliminates empathy and the ability to see with human perspective. It is the cause of an inaccurate depiction of Afghan women.

Journalists, specifically the tabloid sensationalists, would love us to view these women as voiceless victims, completely unable to have an opinion that hasn’t been indoctrinated by a patriarch. It’s inaccurate, and reading their “landays” emphasise this massively. Most suggest raw and often bursting passions of lust and love. There are hints of fury over the Taliban and the U.S., and foreign occupation.

My lover is fair as an American soldier can be. / To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.
Landay lines like these cut deep and reveal strength, the strength that we all must see. Too prevalently, there is a manipulated view of Muslim women as direct results of oppression. Obviously, the consequence of this is their immediate dehumanisation. They are then seen through a lens that fails to attribute any agency or depth. Even their initiative is brushed aside.

Since the recent inauguration of Trump, women across the globe have risen up in a unified voice against his despicable policies. It’s fantastic! It’s inspiring to see that his government’s blatant misogyny and bigotry is not going unchallenged. People can address the politics of the women marching in the US and Europe, their agency, their intelligence. Yet, there still remains a struggle to identify these qualities in women from Islamic countries. Their acts of revolution and activism are either ignored, dismissed or played down. It’s easy to look at a middle-class American woman and call her a political revolutionary but people don’t want to call an Afghan woman anything of the sort.

In the West there is an erroneous thought that women from Islamic backgrounds are in need of salvation. This has been helpful to politicians in the past, allowing them to justify certain invasions. But to look at these “landays” is to understand that perhaps, these Afghanistan poets are the revolutionaries we should be taking examples from, rather than forcing our examples onto them.

Hey, hot things

Author:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A poem by Ananda Gervais

Content Note: sexual assault, street harassment

I am 13 and I’m walking to my friends house and you honk your horn and role down the window as you pass me, pursing your lips to send me kisses, I don’t understand so I look down and avoid eye contact. I ask myself what I did, what did I do to get such attention, what did I do to deserve this disrespect, I am 13.

I am 14 and I’m walking through the school hallways, and you think it is appropriate to smack your hand against my ass, I do not know you, this is not welcome. So when I turn round I intend to yell at this intruder of my personal space of my body but before I can say anything you get on the defensive. ‘it was just a joke’ you say. No it was not just a joke it was assault. 

I am 15 and walking home with my friend, it is 9 oclock and the sky is black when you start to follow us. There are two of you and we are scared and reminding each other that we just aim for the nuts. You call after us, ‘hey hot things, wanna play.’ No I most certainly do not want to play so we carry on walking. You call again ‘hey, white girls, stop for a minute, I want to look at you’ I turn around and tell you to stop and my friend tells you to ‘fuck off.’ You step forward and I am genuinely scared for my life, but you retreat calling us whores and bitches as you get into your car.  When I later tell one of my friends, she asks me what I was wearing.

I am 16 and you push me up against the wall and tell me to kiss you, I refuse and you push me harder, trying to grope me. I struggle out of your grasp, you call me a prude I tell you to bite me. I tell you if I ever saw you try that again I would break your arm.  An hour later I see you do the same thing to my very drunk friend, she tells you to stop, you don’t. So I push you off her and you stumble to the floor, your friend tells me to relax. I should of broken your arm.

I am 17 and am walking in the darkness with my best friend as we had decided to be fun and spontaneous and surprise another friend of ours when you drive up to us, there are 4, maybe 5 of you in that car and as you yell at us I assure my friend that everything will be okay. I’m not sure what words of abuse you hurled at us but when we stayed silent and walked on you yelled at us to at least be polite and have a conversation with you. Are you actually telling us to be polite, because to me that’s the greatest irony of all.

I am 18 and my bus stops, I get off, noticing you, who had been staring at me for the last 8 stops are also getting off the bus. I clench my fists and speed walk through the dark streets, my house seeming further away than usual. You follow me at my first turn and then the second, I immediately accept my fate. Dialling my mother’s number and leaving her a message to tell her I love her. As I hang up you turn a corner away from me and I let out a breath of relief.

I like being a girl, its fun and slightly complicated and I would never wish to not be me, not for an instant. But in instances like these and many like it, I do not want to be a girl. For a flighting second I wish to be you, I wish to not have to walk alone in fear and to not have to worry about how my choices in clothing might be interpreted, but sadly, wishes rarely come true.

What comes with the wave

Author:
699A8846

A guest poem and video by Hollie Cooper

Perhaps I’m not like you at all.

Yes, most definitely not like you.

Definitely afraid of you.

I’m not here for beauty.

Nor for rules.

Just to be.

Not to get caught in a tiresome wind.

Not to dance like a kite but to fly away.

The waves crash.

The moment breathes.

The sun gazes.

Governed by her own accord, her rays here for no one.

To emulate her is to be free.

Fly me to the moon.

Let me live uncritised.

Do not label me.

I am energy running wild.

Running dark.

Running blood.

Running gold.

Running thin.

Running plentiful.

Running real.

Running in circles.

Not for no one.

But life itself.

You can read more of Hollie’s poetry here: https://www.holsnco.com/caught-in-the-riptide

Abbatoir Floor

Author:
Photo by Kaylen Forsyth

A poem by Kaylen Forsyth

Content note: Violent and sexist language, gender based violence and harassment

my name changes from BABY to HONEY,
NEARLY DRUNK ENOUGH, DARLING to BITCH.

i always thought i’d love the first boy to talk in poetry,
but i craved metaphors of moonlight, not war-talk and violence:
BANG, SCREW, NAIL, DESTROY.
“i like this song, do you?”
“i prefer the original,”
and you’d think i’d said something funny;
i guess it’s hard for him to grasp-

i have an opinion, i exist outside of this room,
i exist as a person- when i’m not just a nail
to be banged, to be screwed.
i guess it’s hard for him to grasp- but do you know what’s harder?

watching a girl even younger than myself
with a man twice her age on the abattoir floor.
she’s probably the girl of his dreams
or close to it-
the youngest he won’t be sent down for,
and he grabs at her throat like he’d tear at a steak;
he decides if she’s raw,
if she’s burnt,
if she’s bloody.
“keep your eyes off those boys,
you dirty, little slut!”

he has reigns on her conversations,
her body, her beauty.
and when i check on her later
she’s smiling so wide,
calls the finger-shaped bruises on her neck pretty pearls-
“why should I be afraid? it was just like a movie.”

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