Sunday, July 5, 2015

#172: Two Poems by Bobbi Lurie


~This poem was previously published in Nimrod (2002).


This afternoon I went to the jar, sank my finger in the honey. 
No one saw me so I let the sweetness linger on my tongue. 

At night I paint black around my eyes.
I wash it off at morning.

When everyones asleep, I draw on scraps of paper 
Ive collected, the backs of labels, edges torn from newspapers.
This is my secret.

Coming back from the highway with my brothers,
I dropped my spade, went to lean against the shed,
Heard Fathers voice coming from within.
He was laughing with Abdullah who says hell buy me

For three bags of wheat
When Fathers done with me.
When he does Ill slash my body with petrol, 
Strike the match like Laida did.

I watched those two fools empty a giant vat of honey
Into another vat, saw them pull out long tubes 
They scraped with their hands, licked with their tongues. 
Beneath the amber honey, I saw guns.

Father caught me looking, jumped off his chair, 
His hands were claws dripping towards me, 
Shoving me hard against the wall, grabbing me there. 
Whore!! he screamed then spit on me.
I couldnt move. I couldnt speak. 
I covered my face.

Back in the tent 
Mother was making lentils, 
Hunched over the fire.

I pulled the spoon from her hand, stirred the pot 
As if I were her daughter.


Today, walking with my brothers, I saw Bashir.
He was leaning against a wall, one leg missing.
I knew, still a shock went through me 
Seeing the dirty rags tied around his stump, the blood dried,
What looked like pus. 
And how he stood as if he had a leg.
Strange how we never speak 
But I walk through him with my eyes, 
Enter his hidden rooms. 
He was speaking with Khangal about the enemy
But his soft eyes were blazing holes in me,
Forcing me to see the sky and trees with deeper color.
Khangal saw me looking, threw his spade hard against my leg,
The pain was so intense. I bled and bled,
Putting pressure on the wound with just my hand,
My burkha drenched in blood,
He pulled me up by my hair.

I burned in the part of me which was not hurt.


Tonight Father had guests. I heard them say 
They liked the bread.
I baked it 
While Mother took a nap. 
She did not say
I baked it. She turned her back to me.


I feel sickness inside me all the time.
I enter the back rooms with my father, 
Creep out like a rat trapped in its maze,
Seek escape in the next cage where Mother stands
Brewing the food, keeping us snared in this affliction called life.

And I think of our martyrs dying for freedom. 
I would like to die for freedom.

But I am a woman
And I do not believe in the paradise Father speaks about
While he beats me with his stick.


But everyday I keep collecting my scraps of paper.
And when everyones asleep, 
I draw Bashir, his stump, my father with his guns,
My mother hunched over the fire, stirring lentils.
I draw them all out of me.
I open myself to the darkness.
I wait for night to speak.


 ~This poem was previously published in Karamu (2005).


The clouds and the shadows of the clouds.

The early light, like the night undressing herself
revealing pink beneath, underneath

the glory and the intimacy
like early love made of arms
only arms
and the lingering promise
of something else.

To breathe into what is. . . 

Feelings dead and dry as winter branches
body poached and flattened
the sky with its glaucoma stare
the way you call yourself Iand mean it
and want to be seen as such
as noun
as verb
as some idea which others can not see.

The plain loneliness of painters.

Their lust for colors
and the underneath of it.

It was Modigliani who saved me
from the dark unknowableness.
It was Soutine.
It was Cezanne.
It was the yellow and the green of it.

And I can not tell them.

I can not tell the painters or the colors what they have done.
And I can not say what the clouds are.

Each shape passes me with its blues and its endless hues of white
and light and the longing which bleeds
the inner world.



            Both of these poems express my gratitude for art and both came about spontaneously, which is not something that happens all that often.
            Re: "Kabul”: After 9/11, I wrote Kabul,juxtaposing facts I was devouring about women living under The Taliban with realities I was never able to express in my own life. In spite of all the trials of life under the restraints of a harsh and repressive culture, making art in secret, is what saves the speakers, and this speakers, life.
            In writing What We Remember May Not Remember Us,” I was sitting on the floor, feeling an  urge to paint or write about the beauty of the trees outside my window, and it struck me that the people (the artists) who showed me how to live were people I would never be able to meet or thank. This is a poem of gratitude for the artists who help me survive my life.



Bobbi Lurie is the author of four poetry collections, most recently, the morphine poems (Otoliths, Australia).  The beginning chapters of her book on Marcel Duchamp can be found in Berfrois.

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