Friday, September 21, 2012

And With The Tape It Measures

I rounded up some of my own poetry earlier in the week.

Today we have a poem by Flora Brovina, an Albanian poet, pediatrician, politician, and activist.

Some info about Ms. Brovina from Wikipedia:
As the political situation in Kosovo deteriorated in the 1990s, and fighting broke out, Brovina ran a health clinic in Pristina in which she distributed health care information on matters as diverse as snake bites, dressing wounds and delivering babies. She also used the centre to shelter a number of orphaned children, many of whom had lost their parents during the fighting and expulsions. She and her fellow workers took care of as many as 25 children at a time.

On 20 April 1999 during the Kosovo War, Brovina was abducted by eight masked Serb paramilitaries from the home she was staying in and was driven off by car to an initially unknown destination. She was thus in captivity in Serbia when NATO forces took the capital and Serb troops withdrew from the country. The first news of her abduction broke on 24 April 1999 when her son managed to contact the international writers’ association, PEN, with an urgent appeal that the news of her abduction be made known as widely as possible. She was transferred to a Serb prison in Požarevac and, in her first month of detention, was subjected to over 200 hours of interrogation in 18 separate sessions lasting typically from 7 A.M. to 5 P.M. On 9 December 1999, in a show trial, she was accused of 'terrorist activities' under Article 136 of the Yugoslav Penal Code. She spent a year and a half in Serb prisons before being released as a result of international pressure.
In 2001, she ran for president of Kosovo. Brovina became a member of the Assembly of Kosovo (Parliament) that year and she has held that position ever since.

A poem from Dr. Robert Elsie's Albanian Literature in Translation site:

by Flora Brovina

With the tape it measures,
And with the tape it measures
My waist and right arm,
With the tape it measures,
Crawling up my spine,
Rib for rib
As I stand erect,
And with the tape it measures
My long hair and bare shoulders,
Taking a furtive glance of toes
On naked feet,
With the tape it measures
Droplets slithering down my body,
Down my brow and down my cheeks,
I stay put
I don’t go out, I don’t go in,
I don’t go out, I don’t go in,
And with the tape it measures
My bare physique,
My stubby limbs,
No, please, not the head,
And with the tape it measures,
Overlooking nothing,
Missing not a hair,
It puts a noose around my neck
To fashion me a collar
And makes me clothes to its dimensions,
Soaking wet I shiver,
With the tape it measures,
And with the tape it measures,
Nothing can I conceal from it
Neither brow, nor curves, nor belly,
Neither fever, nor blood, nor sweat,
It sees it all,
My whole physique, oh,
But not the tears
Below the lashes, no,
For these there is no tape,
And so the clothes will not be fashioned
To its own dimensions.


Ms. Brovina's three books of poetry seem hard to come by, but there is a poem of hers in New European Poets, edited by Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer.

Renee at No Water River is our Poetry Friday host today.


Linda B said...

It is so sad to hear these stories of war and power and hate. And that someone could emerge still with hope and resilience is inspiring, Tabatha. I read the poem several times, imagine some few scenarios, but am not quite sure other than it seems an invasion. What do you think?

Tabatha said...

I imagined that she is being measured for prison clothes, that it is about her being under someone else's power, but not completely. That no matter *how* complete they try to be, some part of her escapes.

GatheringBooks said...

Hi Tabatha, I find it uplifting that despite the ugliness of war, there are people like Flora Brovina who provides a different facet of mankind - one that is filled with humanity and compassion. The poem reminded me of Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran" - have you had a chance to read that book yet? Very powerful.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Wow. Such courage and eloquence embodied in the here and now causes a reader to pause. Thank you for sharing such a powerful poem and person, Tabatha.

And I loved traipsing through your poetry! Some I'd read before, others not. "Poetry City" is TOO fun! Really love "Eye Sight," too, and I wish you a day with "a wind no one had ever felt before,
a day that blossomed with surprises...."

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tabatha. This is a heart-breaking poem. So sad to think about the things people do to de-humanize one another, but all the more reason to value those who can write about the experience so powerfully.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

What a haunting poem from a brave and amazing woman. Thank you for posting this!

Joyce Ray said...

A very powerful poem! I see it as a metaphor for the interrogation the poet endured in prison. The repetition of "And with the tape it measures" conveys the unending probing. These lines are chilling for the very real possibility that she could have been killed.

"It puts a noose around my neck
To fashion me a collar"

iza said...

What a poem and what a woman. Thanks, Tabatha, for introducing me to her!
And I am going to order your Abert Enstein book. I was so excited to find it. My stepson is a recent PHD physicist- but I might also get a copy for myself. I love the man!

Tabatha said...

Thanks, all! I appreciate the good wishes, Robyn, and I like your metaphor, Joyce. Hope you enjoy my Einstein book, Iza! I was very pleased that it was recommended by the National Science Teacher Association.