Yawning—Stretching—standing proud for the day. Warm sunlight trickles through the window as condensation fogs the mirror.
Stepping out, a cloud of steam follows like a wedding dress. They dry their feet on the rough mat, lean forward, run the towel to catch the drips that journey down their spine.
Walking to the mirror, they use the towel to free their face from the glass cage. Squared jaw, thick brows, the lips of ancient gods.
Following the mirror down with their eyes, the body is blurred. It is there, standing—real in every regard. But no details shine through.
Does today bring a chest of supple mounds, the nourishment of mankind? Or would the day be one of endless fields, sharp angles, and broad lines?
The fog melted down their neck. Would their voice reach the submarine signals deep beneath the ocean blue? Or would it fly high with the delicate birds in the clear blue sky?
Bringing their hand up to run through wet hair— would it flow long, a twirl of braids and intricate patterns? Or would it be twisted tight into a strong knot under their hat?
Maybe today they would exist in the blur. The blur that permeated the image they faced. Maybe their hair would flow long and their nails would shine bright– their chest flat as a frozen lake, their voice a force that could make mountains tremble.
Maybe today they would be neither. Maybe today they would be both. And maybe that would be OK.
First appeared in an edition of MR. MA’AM Literary Journal at Emory University.
ISIL (formerly known as ISIS—defamation of a GODDESS)
ISIL knows this
.if the soldier will fight.
— but when it is clear he is living to die killing as he kisses suicide he is given a Yazidi “bride”
at what price
and Isis wept
and Isis worked
and Isis wept
and Isis worked
and Isis wept
the Yazidi fight
Isis brought the dead back to life
“oh Allah she is your throne”
Artist Statement for Isis and Osiris
Born of earth and sky, the Egyptian goddess Isis shows us that strength does not preclude feeling: an essential reminder as women transition into selfhood. Isis is here invoked to reclaim a name that has been sullied, while also serving as a reminder that mourning is a profound part of the process of empowerment, as it is in numbness that we are truly lost. It was up to her to restore the world when everything was ripped to pieces, and this was not a process without profound pain, a pain she was not afraid to show. As for the Yazidi and Kurdish women fighting against ISIL, they are not just tasked with restoring destroyed worlds within and without; many are directly confronting violence as soldiers themselves. The poem “Isis and Osiris” expresses that when tradition is upheld over what is natural and loving, our humanity is more easily degraded and we become numb. When this happens, we must fight like the Yazidi and Kurdish women to reclaim our humanity, because in states of numbness, humans are reduced to bodies, figments, and payments. Women’s transition into selfhood requires a reflection on the violence we have suffered, strength from the past, as well as creative new visions for humanity, as the old, however inspiring, may still keep us in cycles of subservience and domination. As an artist and scholar, sakina seeks to unite facts with truth so that women’s transition into selfhood can be both fortified and tender. sakina earned a B.A. in Philosophy and Creative Writing from Bryn Mawr College, an M.A. in Religion and Literature from Yale Divinity School’s Institute of Sacred Music, and has been selected as a Mellon Mays, Fulbright, and Yale-China Fellow. As an artist, her work has been featured at the Camra Screening Scholarship Media Festival at the University of Pennsylvania, National Sawdust in Brooklyn, the Yale Off Broadway Theater, Yale Edgewood Gallery, and the Self-Organized Performance Biennial on Art and Politics in Athens, Greece.
All of you have shells scarred with the ravages of patriarchy detailing old fights, some of which you lost. It was a world full of predators and struggle, so you learned to live in your shells Permanently.
Turtle women, you tell me to vomit my words onto the page while you purse your closed lips. Turtle women, you ask me to undress so you can fix me my broken body while you stand there in your buttoned-up white coat and cashmere turtleneck. Turtle women, you request my whole life story told in numbers and factoids while you robotically type at your workstation.
You hide your true selves in the name of doing your duty.
In my parent’s living room, hidden in the pages of a dusty scrapbook, there’s a picture of a bright-faced little girl staring eye-to-eye with a turtle at the zoo, separated by a piece of glass.
They teach us young feminists to smash glass ceilings, but not how to speak through the glass walls that separate us from you beautiful turtle women
Someday I’d like to walk with you, to truly know you and understand the scars that roughen your shells and toughen your hearts. But now I’ll just observe from the other side of the glass,
As the person with the honor of writing the first staff blog post, I thought I’d share this poem I wrote at the beginning of this school year, which I feel encapsulates the unique nature of the adventures of being a student at a women’s college. Less than a hundred days away from my graduation, I’m appreciating my Smith experience more and more, and I’m so going to miss this women’s college environment.
Sweat-soaked and scalp-strained
from hot days and high buns,
we are drawn to the river,
after dinner, after dark.
The path is smooth; we need no flashlight
the moon is a crescent; it peers through the leaves.
Clothes shed, shoes kicked,
our toes sink into silt
we slip underwater,
icecold and sweet.
The river is smooth; there is no current
the moon is a voyeur; it makes our skin shine.
Skin cooled, clothes dripping
from our blissful solution,
we walk home without towels
Drips in the night.
The pavement is smooth; there are no potholes
the moon is a classmate; it laughs in the sky.
*Salmon fast during the entirety of the annual salmon run, never questioning their Darwinian instincts, nor their own mortality, as they rush to spawn on the graveled river beaches.
Steam coats my pebbled floor.
streaming river water,
your scent ripples off me,
drip aaaaaaaadripping aa down my creamy linens.
Slowly I run my hands along the dip you left in bed last night
and I remember what you taste like,
up your back spilling kisses, those
rosy tinges scaling down your upturned belly
like riptide. You are gorgeous. I
before slow nursing, silver sips,
suckling your finger tips –
I will be aa the one to die
Kept upstream, a piece of the churning,
a ritual burning
through flesh, teething
into curdled fat, unstrung muscle
my milky skin, hung damply across bloated sand, those loose
baby sacs aunburdened.
Dear beautiful strong women!
Just in case
No one has reminded you
In a short while
Of how beautiful you are,
Let me please
Did anyone ever
Tell you that
For beautiful things to happen
On this zigzag path of hindrances
In the so-called MEN’S world
You have to go through some
If you have decided
To stay strong,
I am deadly sure
You are well aware of
How, where, when and whom
You must fiercely face!
Humiliation, of course,
Is never gonna leave
Your beautiful mental sky
The agony is fathomable
You gotta adapt to that
So-called hurt and heartbreak
And give no damn to
Those causing it.
Does not come with ease
But if you have come this far
I want to remind you:
Without your decisions,
We are never gonna be
Out of this men’s world.
Let me tell you
The word woman is
Not any different than
That of civilized!
You have to help me
Teach the men
How to be civilized.
You have to help me
Teach the men
That your honor does not lie
in some of your body parts
You have to help me teach the men
You are more than just what you wear
We have to keep being strong
And tell the men what is
strong is beautiful
as we women are.
So tell the men
This is no time
To remain quiet
But to transform the world
Into a better place to live
By teaching the men
Bria published her poem “Say Something” in the spring 2017 issue of Voices & Visions. We are excited to share her visual performance below and feel that its attention to place aptly aligns with our fall theme, “Environments.”
When we were torn apart,
twins once conjoined,
a wall rose between us.
We spoke through messengers,
red telephones and cold warriors.
I’ve never been scared of what I’ve done before.
I’ve never been scared of what you’d do.
I lose thoughts to you every day.
We built this together, brick by brick.
We let our differences divide us,
and now lie in pieces,
in the middle of a staring contest
between nations, a test of wills.
If I destroy you, annihilate you,
I annihilate myself.
This has nothing to do with love.
This has everything to do with love.
You are back & side & make a be space
out of silent patches on other side & going toward
the going there doing silver mix between silver
& silver of tinker, toy, & fix. How can I really
know you man by your shell shape & teeth smile
walk face; little do you do to say hi to weather news
the flowers pretty nice, maybe some same maybe some
different, & maybe you’re some caring & maybe
you’re some busy & maybe you’re some shy,
& maybe you too see me go & too think maybe of me
go too go, but most likely no, most likely yes, probably
maybe though, most likely you see lots of round
& square things, God’s things: zinnias, snails, apples,
& charcoal colored sparrows. Real things: shovels
& hammers. Probably you know how it is to fly passenger
in a 747, ride a flat-tired bike, how it is to know sharp things,
tired things, how it is to drop sighs & do harm, & I see you
an older neighbor man who means nothing at all to me
yet who may mean an ocean of bubbly emerald to another.
Grandmother. We, your oldest and youngest
granddaughters (two of twenty)
make our pilgrimage to your ashes
this rainy day after subdued Thanksgiving
to break our ten-year silence.
Forgive our wandering path toward you;
the roads in this cemetery caress the hills,
but you rest in a valley, we think.
We fan out and read the names of the dead
until my boots, wet with morning rain,
face your plain square headstone.
We clear the lichen from your name;
we set the record straight.
Your stone will be the most pristine,
most recently loved,
despite no flowers withering there –
we know you wouldn’t want them.
“How hard it was to live,” my cousin says
while scraping a twig against stone.
You lost the love of your life in a boxing match
married my grandfather within six months
then lost him to the Spanish flu.
Seventeen years and six children
four still here and stubborn as ever
two lost early and buried up the hill.
We cleaned their stone too, Grandmother.
We place two smooth acorns atop your shared grave
and clear the shards that the squirrels have left.
Did you live so nobly only to be a perch, Grandmother?
Outlasting your husband by forty years
governing children and property
Did his death set you free, or drown you?
We have cleaned your tomb, Grandmother.
We have taken our pictures
and though we never met
I feel you would be proud –
I wear a Smith hat, just like you.