With an eerie close to last year, and solemn start to this one, it feels appropriate to share the words of Karina Vahitova. I was first shaken by her words when a dear friend read them to me last fall and have since become an admirer of her as an intellectual and writer. Invariably, Karina’s poetry strips me bare and faces me with the most universal and private of my own female desire, the tenderness I feel towards my mother and the grievances I have with the world.
This is a voice worth reading, one that hopefully will encourage you to string anger into poetry, elegantly of course. In her words, go lyrical into (your) grief.
BEREGINYA (A Eulogy)
Inside of me lie almost dead almost ten thousand women.
I own none of them.
I do not dare to.
I eat bread to let them taste their glory,
I bring fingers of a her between my legs
while I cover my hair in a scarf and hold my tongue.
They can cum at last while I write it down to remember this sound.
Twine is around my neck,
I remember you, I remember you when
you itch me through my sleep.
Берегиня стоїть на Майдане співає свою власну біль.
Bereginya stoit na Maidane,
spivae svoyu vlasnu bil’
Her bronze lungs cannot breathe.
Her art’s supposed lifelessness
is prayed upon in church.
I bring down the liturgy —
let the fall happen in a dream so it’s easier for the witness of god.
I am seeing it happen right in my eyes:
How she takes off her shoes on a diving board in
She doesn’t walk to the edge,
she does not pretend she is going to fly.
In my dreams no women go flat.
Not even when they step off to death.
There is no splat of her on the pavement:
of a non-scream
how it feels to die as a woman
who was killed.
How it feels to die even when you are so alive you can actually watch it.
dance like a clock.
What should have been a trampoline to catch her and lift her
is a canvas stretched for embroidery she now lies on.
And I see her through,
though the rain of my eyes
and I have no sound.
In her fall she shrinks from a woman
and on the canvas she is embroidered.
Matreshka, matreshka moya.
A body is always caught right as it leaves its warmth
to become an only natural preservation.
Every eye is a camera of spectacle.
Isn’t life so lusciously theatre?
We peer and we see:
Her forgotten children-ness
We peer and we see:
Female sculpture is someone’s relief, don’t you know how they’re made?
She is nothing short of bronze left up above
Don’t worry my child,
All at once a matreshka —
you know how there is always another woman inside
the other woman
inside the other woman
who jumped her eyes closed.
Her hands placed over her chest in a string orchestra of peace.
And her mother’s face upon impact earthquakes with wrinkles,
and her mother’s face
like sand left over on a drum getting its beating.
Cease into stillness you whore.
The daughter is
is the woman
is the lifeless bronze of
Eto vi moy kukolnik?
I have no sound,
I go lyrical into my grief.
HOLLOW ME OUT
[ after Zoe Leonard’s I Want A Dyke For President ]
i want a new life, a kind that doesn’t break
a kind that doesn’t stop /
a kind that doesn’t whisper
iridescent ugliness into my mouth with a kiss /
a kind that has no fisted tooth /
which does not swallow my light
and return it as hurricane /
i want my horses to sound like pebbles skipping the water /
i want my knees to bleed only
when the flowers are coming up from under the snow-beds /
i want a life where the window is always open for the wind /
i want one /
and i want it just once /
and for however long it is allowed /
i want a noose which hangs like a willow tree /
i want a life where the lyric isn’t deafened /
in which silence is the sun /
in which whales sound the sky blue /
and we love the song they’ve sung cold /
i want a surprise everyday like nothing ends with me /
i want a mother and her lover to love each other /
so they can love their child too /
i want arrows to pierce the air for the sake of vast emptiness and not blood /
i want a new life, a kind which murmurs its beauty
now that the pain has gone green /
i want hands to feel like translucent silk pierced by the sharp of the sun flower seed /
i want my yearning to hum
like tomorrow is still coming / and i am still leaving
and the bright white light takes nothing /
gives everything back.
I SAY, MOTHER
i am as perverted as this alphabet you’ve given me.
here is this lesbian with all the righteous reasons rushing along.
telling qualities alluding to my laughter:
beginning my life-long anthesis:
my feminism is becoming
while lucid under the anesthesia of performance.
history waits for you to open your mouth during violence.
i am wearing my ontological suit today and a man
on the street stops me to tell me
i have crazy sex appeal.
if he’d given me flowers, i’d put them in my language vase.
some of us just want to be crafted instead of fucked,
but i’ve never known love yet, so maybe that’s how i locate desire.
queerness is a possible whore.
i’d like to see this map through
if we’re talking geography:
each continent’s flopping open under the wind of my batting eyelashes.
the flowers speak if
you grow them at the highest altitude.
the secret lesbians keep from men is that
they sound like the greatest women.
when someone asks me for my given name, i say, Mother.
with age i’ll have to be me,
i come in stages,
jagged with no duration,
and a broken mirror.
i bear with me only the lies i am told,
i am made of them, can’t you see
and if you can’t, then why can't you?
i don't want to dream of women
only to hold them.
when the greyish warmth must come,
must it not stay?
what holes in me ask,
and what holes in me reply,
what dialogue assonates on a frequency
only muscle can disintegrate & breakdown into color?
we know what it is to be the wind,
coming in and out,
leaving everything touched,
some things even hollow,
but mostly ourselves.
5:48 am and i am thinking of molecular symmetry again, then,
in the absence of the moon —
the elliptical orbits of longing.
the sought after
always at the far edge,
how it is so clearly seen,
how it must be intrinsically out of touch
to be visible just enough.
come around again.
come around again with that grace.
you as anything which might return to me.
remember how that far side of the ellipses looked,
how the journey was to eclipse to this side,
how i looked at you looking —
our shadows stretching wide.
you must know how a mirage
of a winged angel turning only on its axis
cancels out all other velocities.
you must have called upon yourself
a swarm of sweet-mouthed bees.
this was the fist to my mirror.
what blow it was to shatter my one
into these one too many.
time is a door to which there is no key.
it is not needed;
the door just disappears.
Video still from “Forest Blue”. Harlem, New York. February 2016
POLIS (Eighth Iteration)
“Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being.” — Hannah Arendt
“Men who act, to the extent that they feel themselves to be the masters of their own futures, will forever be tempted to make themselves masters of the past, too.” — Hannah Arendt
the retelling of light is complicated:
which woman bathed which silk only in spit,
which crib did his poems lie in and who built their lines.
when the polis seized the heart, i knew in me Artemis.
there is no stopping how she
spills blue out of my mouth.
the patriarchy kills by proxy
even after we’ve learned how to avoid getting murdered
by what we give birth to,
when we think we’ve never
been in bed with anything lethal.
through the glass i see
blue silk wearing the skin of a forest,
hate from inside her lingering,
dark as a mothershadow.
the world turns inside out
& the flesh from within is the soft skin of a peach.
she glows with the sullen age of the moon.
my love of guts turns over in my bowel,
scrapes the inside of my throat on its way out.
political danger hides in the beauty of words when
its abstraction tightens the bolts of love.
once anger and mouth,
twice mothersyllables and muscle.
i watch man poets leave their lyric,
inside of female bodies,
what ideology survives
after they’ve fit it in you?
* * *
i learn a liver has a throat,
and that few things in the body don’t.
that Plato hid deep inside of women
because he saw organs and
knew their honesty.
that poetry may be a practice of being soundless.
that when we pass
our mouths will hang as pedicels under the weight of silence,
but for this corporeal life i won’t hide my disasters inside of you
unlike Plato, i’ll love my women guts & glory & edge.
my gift is a zygote that could light up a goddess.
i am the thought that lives in his anger
and i am red-made lesbian:
my speech is an abstraction of skin.
i’ll wash the floors in his house before i set it on fire
for the life of just one daughter.
* * *
carnal want casts better shadows for the spectator.
where were ancient women when they were poisoned?
when they cracked open each other’s chests and bit down,
hungry for the forest burrowed within the ribs
with leaves as fatal as their root.
today i take the language back.
i kill the creed inside of me,
the scroll of phonemes bleeding blue.
photos courtesy of Karina Vahitova
Karina Vahitova is a post-Soviet queer poet from Kiev, Ukraine. She is working on her first book of lyrical theory about female queerness, totalitarianism, violence and women in the Soviet Union. She co-founded The Void Academy and lives and works in New York City. If you want her to write you letters, give her your email here.