“Record my voice, so that when I get killed at least you’ll have something of me.” ~ Meena (a citizen of one of Afghanistan’s largest provinces)
Last week in Michigan, I watched the beloved American poet, Carolyn Forche, read her poetry; as if she were casting one spell after another into the audience. I hung onto each word. I savored every minute and was shocked, and disappointed, at how fast an hour had gone by.
She was funny, the content of her work was sad, joyful, and smart, and also of a woman who had deeply lived. She read about her family, friends, of politics and food. We got to see her world. She took us to exotic places, I, for one, certainly may never know except through her words.
She was free with her expressions, like a dancer at times, as she waved her arms, seeming as if she might float off the stage with honesty as her wind.
But presently I’m thinking about a horrendous opposition to all of this. How there are women in the world risking their lives to write poetry.
This reality makes me selfishly grateful I am not of that culture, while also appalled by it, with misogyny at its core, an undeniable hatred, domination and abuse of women is, harshly, a way of life for them. I can’t fathom what life might be for them. I feel compassion and also pained by their longings to be heard.
I feel helpless in my inability to do anything for them, but what I can do is write. Even if what I write sometimes doesn’t make complete sense, or isn’t as smart, or as vitally important as the New York Times, or as spell binding as Carolyn Forche’s poetry and performance. I can feel a little comfort in knowing that each time I sit at my computer, scribble a line, or a note in my journal, that I will not be beaten for it, or worse.
As I write, I energetically connect with those women in hiding, writing their poetry and prose, leaving proof behind that they lived, while continuing to risk everything, doing what I have taken too easily for granted.
I’ve known about Pakistan and Afghanistan, about these women, about the laws, forbidding them to express themselves, to talk about what’s “wrong with their government,” the ancient patriarchal laws that enforce such inhumane treatment of women.
These women are left unable to write about their day-to-day lives, of their relationships, their families, and also, how with the little amount of education they’ve been allowed, if any at all, that they continue to write poetry; inspires me to speak, as a fellow sister, “I care for your life. I care about what you have to say. I also love your poetry.”
“I am like a tulip in the desert. I die before I open, and the waves of desert breeze blow my petals away.” ~ Meena.
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Ed: Sara Crolick