Breathing

I open some windows

to escape my fate,

find birds and talk to them,

find trees and smile at them.

But every breath of air

transforms through me

into pure pain.

 

Sometimes,

I breathe pain

out of the air particles

that flee the house.

Pain I can’t escape,

pain I can’t explain.

The pain men

remind me of being

the weakness of my sex,

so deep and irresistible,

it diminishes

my very own existence

(me).

 

I close the windows

and shut the curtains,

while I breathe air in.

I close the doors

and hide the mirrors,

while I breathe pain out.

The room is finally dark.

 

Photo: Kozani, Summer of 2015, Greece. Minolta dynax 7000i, Kodak Gold, ISO 200, 35mm film.

One line a day

One line a day,

I promised myself to write,

even if it is bs.

 

One line a day,

to exorcize the evil spirits,

to de-demonize my heart,

to clear out the air of the room.

 

One line a day

might not seem enough

or good enough,

but it’s there,

written,

engraved out of the soul’s depths.

 

One line a day

is all I need to start over

fresh,

anew

like an explorer in a strange land,

but this time,

I’ve been invited over

to sit and talk

with its people.

 

One line a day,

as I wake up at dawn,

alone in my chamber,

like a maid whose

day’s work is daunting her.

 

One line a day,

as I go to bed at night,

after working hard

on earning the food

that’s waiting for you on the table.

 

One line a day,

for the pain,

the misery,

the world around me

I can’t explain,

the clouds,

the forests,

the lakes,

the dead flowers in my yard,

the travelers,

the workers,

the family,

the friends,

the light in the morning,

the darkness at night.

 

One line a day

for the words buried in me,

haunting me,

and the ones that came before me.

 

One line a day,

for tomorrow,

our dreams

and Hope.

 

Photo: Walking in Stadspark, Groningen, NL. December 2018. Minolta Dynax 7000i (AF 35-105mm). Earl Grey Lomography Film 200, 35mm film.

The powerful words of rupi kaur

Rupi Kaur’s latest poetry collection, the sun and her flowers, is certainly a thick book. Thick, not in the sense of paper denseness and size, but in the sense of content. This book is so full with powerful words, that reading a couple of pages is enough to make you contemplate on the human experience, especially the female experience. The sun and her flowers is a collection divided into five chapters that represent the cycles of life: trauma, pain, survival, healing and rebirth through the life stages of a flower. That is why there is wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming.

If you have read her first poetry book, milk and honey, you might already expect that her seemingly simple language is capable of revealing magnitudes of poetic dynamism: “you must / want to spend / the rest of your life / with yourself / first”, and “i bleed/ every month / but / do not die./ how am i / not / magic./ –the lie“. Her poems have the power to tell so much in a few lines, something also present in her second book. The only difference is that in the sun and her flowers Kaur extends the themes of her first book by writing longer prose poems, equally powerful with the short ones.

If you are not aware of her writing, you can check her account on Instagram, where she uploads screenshots of her poems. Kaur accompanies her words with small sketches she makes herself, designs that elevate every poem. The combination of words and images in her books is powerful to the extent that you can almost visualize each poem’s impact on your soul. Some drawings are surrealistic and some others depict images created from the poem. In any case, you know that, without those drawings, her words feel that they are almost incomplete.

Kaur deals with many different themes in her new book, but rape is a recurring one, especially with poems that include harrowing images. Images that need to be revisited in order to be overcome, because traumas become thin air when you talk about them, when you scrutinize them, analyze them, let them burn you inside out once more till there is nothing else left to burn, “to heal / you have to / get to the root / of the wound / and kiss it all the way up” (235). The ground will then start blossoming, transforming the pain into beautiful flowers. That is what Kaur talks about in this book, where she deals with trauma and pain with care, using words that soften the soul, but also words that are raw and honest. In that honesty is where the reader finds peace and serenity.

Kaur proves that she knows very good how to talk about the female experience. Many of her poems, especially in the last chapter, carry the incredible force to empower women, sexually and emotionally. She knows how to talk about how it feels to be a woman and she recognizes her own responsibility to empower the future generations,”i stand / on the sacrifices / of a million women before me / thinking / what can i do / to make this mountain taller / so the women after me /can see farther /- legacy” (213). Being a woman is “magic without magic” (202) that no one can figure out. It is deep and irreplaceable, an ancient force rooted in the Earth’s core. Kaur starts scratching the surface of this core with her writing pen only to reveal that the true beauty and magic of being a woman is to accept who you really are. We need to stop following and believing almost blindly the image (and be that image) that men want (or think they want), “we need more love / not from men / but from ourselves / and each other / –medicine” (228).

Kaur talks very powerfully about body positivity through her writing; she tries to remind all women that the way they are is already powerful enough that it can even bring down the beauty industry, “it is a trillion-dollar industry that would collapse / if we believed we were beautiful enough already” (224). What we, women, forget is to be unapologetic for who we are and how our bodies look like. That perfect female image we always try to follow can never be achieved, it is a construct that never depicted reality and how women really are, “their concept of beauty / is manufactured / i am not / –human” (225). Kaur’s point is clear: why don’t we try to accept what we really are and forget what others tell us to be? That is the way to true happiness.

In the fourth chapter, Kaur also talks about the importance of the roots, the people who came before us and made us who we are today. As a second-generation immigrant herself, Kaur recognizes why we all need to appreciate our roots and not forget them, “remember the body / of your community / breathe in the people / who sewed you whole / it is you who became yourself / but those before you / are a part of your fabric / – honor the roots” (146). As an immigrant myself, reading this chapter was very soothing and almost confronting with the choices I have made. Even if my story is very different from that of Kaur’s parents, I still went into deep thinking about where my roots are, how important they are to me, and how difficult it was for me to create roots in the new country I live in.

Kaur’s poetry is all about the human experience and the stages we go through with trauma. Like a flower, we will wilt, lose our petals and our strength with a breakup or heartache, and the loneliness and pain that come along. We will then fall, fall apart by hating ourselves for our bad choices and for the things that happen to us, for the abuse, the rape, the trauma. But, after all that pain and suffering we start realizing what matters in life, so we start rooting. We look for the people who are close to us, our families, our parents, what makes our life has meaning again. And we rise, again and again, every time higher and stronger. Till we reach the sky and burst with blooming. Blooming, for Kaur, comes with what it means to be a woman, what it means to be feminine and fierce. To bloom is to heal. From the inside to the outside. Because we have made it, and we have conquered one more cycle of life victorious.

what is the greatest lesson a woman should learn / that since day one / she’s already had everything she needs within herself / it’s the world that convinced her she did not (233)

Kaur, Rupi. The Sun and Her Flowers. 2017. Print.
Photos: Kaur’s book, Canon EOS 1000D, edited with VscoCam
Screenshots taken from the web.

Ο καστανας

Με βραχνή φωνή

στην άκρη της θάλασσας

πουλά κάστανα.

 

Γυμνά τα δέντρα,

φορεί λεπτό πουλόβερ

στον κρύο καιρό.

 

Προς τον καστανά

τα βήματά μου μετρώ

στην ζεστή φωτιά.

 

‘Θέλω κάστανα

για να ζεσταθώ’, λέω

‘Ορίστε’, λέει.

 

Αλλάζει χρώμα

κόκκινος ο ουρανός

το νέο έτος.

 

Photo: Thessaloniki, Greece. December 2017. Minolta Dynax 7000i, Kodak Film 200, 35mm film, 36 exp.

That point between the shoulder blades

That point between the shoulder blades is
where pain sits and multiplies,
like millions of mosquito bites
it itches. Day in, day out.
You can’t lay down or sleep on your back.
You always have to keep your head down,
looking at the floor,
at the ground where
you took your first steps.
The point between your shoulder blades feels cold,
like icebergs have been formed there,
since the beginning of time,
without you knowing it.
But deep down you knew, all along
about the pain between those shoulder blades.
Now it’s part of you, you can’t imagine your life
without the pain.
Those icebergs never melt,
those mosquito bites never heal,
you need to keep your head down to the ground
and count the blessings in your heart.
And then the pain will transform
and the ice will start melting
while a hand is warming that spot
between your shoulder blades.

{Inspired by M. Oliver’s “When Death Comes” and that chronic pain between my shoulders.}

Photo: Leeuwarden, Friesland, June 2015. Minolta Dynax 7000i, Kodak Film 200, 35mm film.

Καλοκαιρι

Θυμάσαι που τρώγαμε καρπούζι τα βράδια,

κάτω απ’ το θολό φεγγάρι;

Και πως σκουπίζαμε τα πόδια μας απ’ την άμμο,

πριν μπούμε στ’ αυτοκίνητο;

 

Τώρα, τα πόδια μου αγαπούν το φρεσκοκομμένο χόρτο,

καίγονται στις αμμουδιές του χρόνου και

μεταμορφώνουν την στάση του σώματος.

Από τα τσιμπήματα των κουνουπιών

μπορώ να πω ότι ηρέμησα. Με ζούληξαν

πολύ όταν μετρούσα μονά φεγγάρια.

 

Έτσι κλείνει η φωνή μου, μ’ εγκαταλείπει

πριν προλάβω ν’ αρπάξω λίγο ησυχία.

 

Κάτω από τον καυτό καλοκαιρινό ήλιο

σταματώ να ονειρεύομαι. Μυρίζω το δέρμα

και ξύνω αλάτι, να το βάζω στις πληγές τον χειμώνα.

Αλάτι πολύ μυρίζει μέσα μου και αλλοιώνει

ό, τι παιδικό έχω ορίσει.

 

Κάτω απ’ το φεγγάρι, λοιπόν, γιορτάζω.

Το πριν και το τώρα για το αύριο και

θυμάμαι όσα καλοκαίρια θέλουν να ξεχαστούν.

Με ιδρώτα και πόνο, με κλειστή φωνή

τραγουδώ ξενικές νότες και καθώς

απομακρύνω την πατρίδα, δεν γυρνώ

να κοιτάξω στον καθρέφτη. Έχω φύγει.

 

Photo: Parga, Greece. July 2017. Minolta dynax 7000i, Kodak Gold, ISO 200, 35mm film.

death is everywhere

Death is everywhere,

the faded moon smoothly hides

behind the red-bricked buildings;

it, too, is ashamed.

 

The sky is empty of stars,

they faded,

as did so many souls

covered in ash and dust.

 

The sky turns red

without the flames

or the blames;

it reminds us of the death

we all hide in our hearts.

 

<Do not blame each other, help each other>

Photo taken a long time ago in Kozani, Greece

ακουσε με για λιγο

Άκουσε με για λίγο,

κάτω απ’ τ’ αστέρια

το παρελθόν παραμένει παρελθόν.

 

Όλα κινούνται γύρω μας

δίχως να γνωρίζουμε που πάμε.

Ξέρετε μήπως εσείς;

 

Ξένοι είμαστε με τον κόσμο

και ξένοι θα παραμείνουμε.

 

Σκέψεις βγαλμένες απ’ το βαθύ

μπλε του ουρανού.

Ιούνης μήνας,

κοίτα πόσο γρήγορα περνάει ο καιρός.

 

Σκορπισμένος ο νους,

πίσω απ’ τα δέντρα χαμένος.

 

Μελετάω εικόνες και λέξεις,

ώστε να καταφέρω ξανά

ν’ ανασάνω.

 

Photo: Groningen, the Netherlands, May 2017. Minolta dynax 7000i, Kodak Gold, ISO 200, 35mm film.

Τα χερια μου

Τα χέρια μου είναι δύο

ακούραστοι εργάτες,

δεν γκρινιάζουν, ούτε βρίζουν

την αδικία της ζωής.

 

Τα χέρια μου έχουν το θαμπό χρώμα

ενός κίτρινου θεού, που βαρέθηκε

ν’ αλλάξει παλέτα χρωμάτων.

 

Τα χέρια μου δουλεύουν σκληρά,

τα δάχτυλα χαϊδεύουν τις δυσκολίες.

 

Κάθε χέρι έχει πέντε μακρουλά δάχτυλα,

και κάθε δάχτυλο έχει τρία μικρά κόκκαλα

για να μπορεί να χορεύει ελεύθερα.

Ο αντίχειρας έχει δύο, είναι δυσκίνητος

και ντρέπεται γι’ αυτό.

Οι υπόλοιποι γιορτάζουν την ομοιότητά τους

με αλληλέγγυες κινήσεις.

 

Το κάθε δάχτυλο έχει όμορφα περιγράμματα

και θαμπά νύχια.

Όλα μαζί εργάζονται για να μπορώ

να δημιουργώ, να στέκομαι, να ορίζω.

 

Αγαπώ τα δυο μου χέρια

και τα δάχτυλά τους.

Τα φροντίζω κάθε μέρα με

γιορτινές κουβέντες

και ας δακρύζει το φεγγάρι.

 

Δεν θα άλλαζα τα χέρια μου

με τίποτα στον κόσμο.

Ό, τι μου έχουν προσφέρει

δύσκολα ξεχνιέται.

Με κόπο και ιδρώτα είναι πλέον επαγγελματίες.

 

Χορεύουν τα βράδια

κάτω απ’ τον ίσκιο του πρωινού μόχθου.

Λυγίζουν τα κόκκαλά τους

σε κάθε ευκαιρία

γιορτάζουν την ύπαρξη τους.

 

Δεν ξεκουράζονται ποτέ

τα χέρια μου.

Σε ώρες σκοτεινές

ξαγρυπνούν για χάρη μου.

Μαθαίνουν καινούργια κόλπα,

βελτιώνονται

και μου δείχνουν με στοργή

τον δρόμο με τις χοντρές πέτρες.

 

Άλλη μία ημέρα σκληρής δουλειάς

για τα χέρια μου.

 

Photo: the writer’s hands somewhere in Friesland in the beginning of 2013. Pentax P30, 35mm film.

 

The Wall

I look at the wall in front of me

white and long

I stare.

There is a gap

– that numb in between –

crisp air particles

and words unspoken.

There is a whole world

that separates

the voice within us,

plain white

like Fear himself.

My voice is strange,

like the flowers I plucked for you.

There is a wall in front of me

and I stare.

Hazy blue waters

down my feet

and grey clouds

– monotonous –

cold wind caresses my face,

touches my fingertips.

Whiteness everywhere.

There is Silence

and Fear in us

– palpitations –

I try to move,

but I have the wrong

set of feet,

so I stare at the wall

with eyes closed.

Then I heard the cracks of the soul opening.

[Acceptance]

 

(Photo: Groningen, the Netherlands. January 2018. Lomo Instant camera, Double exposure. Instant Fuji Film.)