Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mona Eltahawy's "Sekhmet's Tits"

The poem is found here--Sekhmet's Tits.

I have been a fan of Eltahawy's reporting for awhile, but her poem strikes me with its provacative language and juxtaposition of sexual and violent images. And I have been in love with Sekhmet as a poetic image for some time--the lioness breath of the goddess is a source of strength and an image of aggressive feminist aspect. The use of popular song lyrics ties the ancient image of the warrior-goddess and the age-old clash of love and war to the present. It's a palimpsest--even the lyric from Oasis: Gonna start a revolution from my bed--calls to mind the Beatles' Revolution and John Lennon's bed-in. Which calls to mind Lysistrata's strike.  Except here we are with a new configuration--"Make Love, Not War", evolves to Making Love as a kind of War.  A better one. A war of healing.

The backstory of Sekhmet is that she is the Eye of Ra, poured out on the desert to destroy people because they displeased the gods. Her breath created the desert. Ra tricked her into ceasing her bloodlust by dyeing the Nile with wine, so that she would think it was blood, but would be made drunk on it. Once drunk with the wine, she became an aspect of Hathor, and fell in love with Ptah, the creator god. In this story, a goddess goes from uncontrolled wrath to a benign goddess. We have a picture of an entity capable of  "creative destruction" who tears down and rebuilds. This makes her a figure ideal for comtemplating healing from a destructive event, as the poet depicts.

The evocative language, referring to her pussy and tits, strikes me as intended to shock those who would be shocked by reference to perfectly natural female body parts. They are perfectly natural, and the words used, the "vulgar", remind us that culturally, some people don't see the natural bodies we are given as beautiful, but unclean. The pussy is our entry into the world. The tits nourish us. But the poet is birthing a revolution from her pussy. She is nourishing herself. And she seems to do this to continue fighting for herself. And that is a beautiful construction right out of feminism--the urgency of self-care. Because the disregarded self is a house on fire--like the wrathful Sekhmet, it leaves a desert in its wake. But pacified with love, the self makes a new path.

Maybe I'm taking my reading too far. Eltahawy admits herself she wrote this rather quickly, but sometimes deep meanings in poetry come across just like that. In any case, I found the poem meaningful to me, and it struck a lot of notes in my mind.