Nile River Woman
A collection of poems by Kola Boof. Kola herself says "'Nile River Woman' was my earliest, angriest book, and it will be interesting to see whether or not a White woman can really review it." Does Gracie
get it? Yes. No. Maybe so.
Poetry is some of the most personal & intimate writing there is. Reading a poem, there are echos of places & times that are not yours... You may need to read it more than once to let the unknown go, and just let the emotions resonate... with each reading, they reverberate... and the good ones eventually will not only resound, but reside, within you...
With Kola's poems, you may need to read them more than twice, for you'll need to get past some anger that leaves bitterness on your tongue. But if you do so, you shall be rewarded ~ these are the 'good ones' that resound & reside within you, feeding you...
The collection includes the very first poems by Kola (the ones that 'earned' her the fatwa), as well as 25 new poems. Described by Kola as 'her angriest,' there is much to be angry about. But it's not the anger that stays with me. It's the sorrow.
Nile River Woman
(a Dinka slave of the Sudan)
My feet were bound by eel-skin and river
My nose and throat were so caked with blood,
I could hardly breathe.
The sun beat my face.
Nothing but hate was in my heart.
You came into the world anyway.
I split open and you came.
For that time, I had to stop running.
In the trees near an artery
-of blue shallow water,
I had to learn your heartbeat and breathe
inside of you and make human sound.
Against my fur-hole I warmed you
and from my breasts I fed you.
I didn't mind after a while that you had come,
but I thought about killing you.
I thought about clearing a path-to run.
I don't know how any woman can read, and not feel how Kola bleeds ~ not realize that it is our blood too. But if it's the sorrow that haunts, it's the strength that awes.
I am the owner.
Like the white dove, I am free.
But like the black raven, I am sad and lied upon.
Your cheek remembers.
I am opening my hands.
I said to you in Egypt:
Let the serpent coil under silk as a virgin/
let them cover their heads and silence their souls to
gain my respect
Let Christ and Mohammed wait on love... and cuddle
with their respectability at night.,br>
Let them dream of my wedding... while I sail the seven
and enjoy many lovers.
I said to you in America:
The only thing better than some good dick
is soon new dick
I am the owner. For good.
White, black, green, you'll be moved if you read with your soul.
As a white American woman, I may not know or fully understand the violations. I may not fully appreciate the experiences which the author has endured. But reading her words, it is possible to recall my own pain ~ and Kola's words pry such wounds open ~ and multiply it for events such as she shows me. Her pain is not my pain. To pretend such would be a lie. But her pain becomes one with my pain... the energies touch... and sitting alone in my quiet space with them all, I care for them all ...and I pray for a Goddess to come carry them all away.
A River to Bleed In
Once a month, we know that God is with us.
She is the red dragon
flowing from our lips like the nile.
At the bottom of the river we abide her.
Our feet planted in the mudd... mudd that is
softer, finer than our inside mouth.
We are daughters of the Nile.
We are women, Yes.
We have two mouths to speak with.
We are the daughters of buk, the children of the
Sun. We are His lasting vine... jism sprung.
So that there is heart and mind to paint the soul.
So that once we bleed no more, we are the Goddess
...wisdom's beauty Old.,br>
Divine and bloody goddess.
nipple of life... ancient and tomorrows
Are there angry, accusatory lines which point themselves at me? Yes. No. Maybe so. At my whiteness, yes. At me as a person directly, no. As a privileged person, who by my white American-ness, can be seen as a threat? Maybe so. Does this anger me? Yes. But it is not the anger of a defensive person. Rather it is the anger of an activist. The anger of a woman, a being, a spirit that feels shame at what horrors exist, and knows that in order for it to end, we must all first see and acknowledge it.
Fly Away Sleeping
I Will Kill God
before I see my Black Babies dead.
Black men and White men
and those toxic White bitches
who called me sister,
do not understand.
They are God.
I would be happy to slit their throats--to
crush their evil heads in the toilet.
To place my babies on my pretty
And sail into the sunset.
I would be like a goddess.
I would be nappy and smiling.
I would be tall and dark as charcoal.
I would be singing.
I would be free.
Free at last.
To make up my own prayers.
I do not need to be responsible for what someone else has done, but I am responsible for my choices: Am I to turn a blind eye, to twist words, or join the revolution where we all may dance.
If you can be larger than what divides us, yet smaller than what holds us together, as people, then you will enjoy Kola's poems. Yes, 'enjoy.' For like a good cry with a dear friend, the release brought of sharing shows more than sorrow. It's an expression of trust to speak the truth, even through the pain: Where there is integrity, there is hope.
Every Little Bit Hurts
In broad daylight
I am expected to see nothing.
I am a girl; low and dark
as the crease of shadow from
which I swam.
I have no hair like
the Arab woman (whose hair
is like silk and smells
like snot)--and when the
White woman comes to my face
(ME/the Black man's mother)--I think
of the penis.
The men want us to hate one
another. It makes them
feel safe...to have the
White (day) and the
Black (night) denying the
flowsongs of blood--THE RIVER
every little bit
In Africa--we have no
cold oceans/We accept
that you made us
We sing to the lioness
and pray for when
the hate will go away--in
(from where it came)
O GOD, darkest father!
We are Black Men's daughters;
wet, tired and hungry.
At our heels the demon snaps
mightily no matter
what beam of wind we direct; what
beam of Sun we deflect
For out of bare breasts
our hearts are LEAPING
of warm oceans: the brown eyes
of our daughters
staring into the stretchmark of
a blue body's sorrow.
We kiss it up to God. Because
every little bit hurts.
Kola doesn't like it when white women call her 'sister,' and while I well know the grimace (& more than that, the frightening words!) that I risk, I go ahead and call her 'sister.' She may not agree, she may not recognize me as family, but in my heart, she is such.
After all, she's selected me, us, to read her words. She trusts us to hear the truth, even through the pain.
Where there is integrity, there is hope.
For more on Kola Boof, read our exclusive interviews: Kola Boof: The Message & The Messenger and Kola Boof on Spirituality.
© Gracie, all poems are © Kola Boof, presented with her permission.
Nile River Woman, by Kola Boof
Published by Door of Kush, 100 pages