I didn’t notice tears making their escape down my cheeks
Until you caught them with your tongue
Raised yourself up and said, “What?”
Your eyes were sea glass in the gathering dark.
I didn’t love, but the evenings went down too fast and made me drunk
And you were the right height, your face was proportional,
A chestnut-brown smell I could almost taste, and the things you said so blunt
That my face got warm and my mouth formed a “What the hell.”
Back then I believed anything anyone said about me
Whether they said I was a poet or a whore
I was better off listening to the voice inside my head
Even if all it said was “More, more.”
Where are you now, with the stripes across your chest like days
Darkness after light after darkness after light
Are your bones weeping collagen in an unmarked grave
Did you meet a woman who treats you right.
Men like you do the dirty work of forcing themselves on history
The muscle of your hearts knotted and hard, but still you do as you are told
If your voice could be here now, what would it say through me
I mean besides that dark sound from within your throat
Deep where no light can go, quickening breath, a smile creeping into your voice
Like sunrise creeps across floorboards now in other bedrooms
What would you say if you were here?
What would you do if you could choose?
I hope you are happy as I am happy and I hope
That you can forgive me for the way I strung up these words
Like lights that will not shine bright enough or true, poetry must be another lie
Though as far as lies go, it’s still prettier than most.

P.S. This post originally featured a cropped version of Magritte’s An Act of Violence in the header. Due to STUPID CENSORSHIP ISSUES I updated the header to Magritte’s The Lovers. Here’s An Act of Violence below: 

act of violence rene magritte

31 thoughts on “Stripes

  1. Call me chauvinistic but I expect women to be a little more thoughtful than guys when writing about sex and love. But he was “the right height” and his “face was proportional,” so you used him. My are you a cynic. Bonus points for “eyes were sea glass” but poetry like this overall leaves me disturbed. Are there no ladies left anymore?

  2. For fuck’s sake, it’s art. Art discusses the complicated reasons for why human beings end up with one another and sometimes it’s down to looks. Sorry bro, you thought women were different?

    Would you throw a tantrum about John Donne dedicating an entire poem to undressing some woman? That’s right, you won’t, you’re a raging sexist terrified of some woman speaking plainly about an experience men have been allowed to speak plainly about for centuries.

    Let me guess, you’re wildly insecure and your search for a “lady” is actually a search for an inexperienced woman who won’t compare you unfavorably to someone else.


    Who’s the censor? Is that Russian censorship or WordPress?

  4. Oh, that’s just people expressing worry that the Facebook preview might get their reposts reported. Fixed it just in case. :/

    Also, I love that poem about John Donne undressing some woman 😉

  5. So women act less like ladies today and more like men. What exactly has that done to improve the world? Has it made us a kinder, better, more understanding race of beings? Looking around myself I notice the answer is no.

    You can call me insecure for saying that, but you can also call me wise. Also, I would not compare this with John Donne, a poet of real feeling, emotion, and imagery.

  6. Samuel, please tell us the time period when humans were kinder, better, and more understanding. Pick a year, pick an era. Please. Make my day.

  7. I’m not claiming we were at that point. I’m claiming that the supposed “liberation” of women is a crock. It didn’t achieve what it was supposed to achieve.

    Sure, Natalia can be as cynical in any man in describing her ex boyfriends (or did the poor guy in this poem even have the status of “boyfriend”>?) but it doesn’t make her a better artist. Sorry if I caused offense, I am trying to be objective. I am a poetry fan, but poetry should have a greater purpose. That’s what I learned from reading the great poets. What’s the point if it doesn’t.

  8. Okay please tell us what “liberation” was supposed to achieve? One of the most obvious movements was suffrage. It certainly achieved that. It definite achieved more equal terms in the workplace compared to earlier decades. Please tell everyone when it was “better” and show your work while you do.

  9. Who gives a shit if she called him her boyfriend? For such a “fan” of poetry, you have zero critical reading skills. It’s a very ambiguous poem. The narrator of the poem says she wasn’t in love, but describes the man with a lot of affection. He’s obviously a member of the armed forces (paratrooper?), which is a source of tension. There are a lot of complicated things going on in this poem, which you completely ignore, because your real beef with it is that it’s a woman looking back on a past relationship and feeling conflicted. You can’t handle the frankness of the poem, so hide behind a mask of piety. Most MRAs are even smarter than this.

  10. Women’s liberation was meant to achieve full control of Hill 208 in order to shorten women’s front lines. This goal was achieved at approximately H + 3, or 14:00 local time, when the last enemy positions on Hill 208 were cleared by the women of the 33rd Women’s Infantry Regiment.

    The operation shows us how women’s liberation, following von Clauswitz’s principles of war, was expertly rooted in a clear, achievable objective. By limiting objectives and keeping the operation as simple as possible, the women managed to liberate the position in question with few casualties and the mission was clearly accomplished once enemy forces occupying the operational area had been neutralized.

    For more information, see Osprey Campaign Series #241: Women’s Liberation 1972.

  11. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be able to vote or get paid the same for equal amounts of work (I stress the “equal” part). But one of the better things about women was their greater sensitivity to issues of sex and romance. You are not going to deny that men are more sexually aggressive, are you? So why should women copy men? What’s the problem with wanting a little decorum and sensitivity from a woman? I’m not interested in a “Oh yeah, I slept with this guy, I wasn’t in love with him.” This is what men write all the time, I honestly expect better from women. Call me old-fashioned.

    Also, I don’t think I am misreading this poem at all. If he was in the armed forces she should have had more respect for him anyway.

  12. I can’t decide if this conversation is hilarious or pathetic. She “should have more respect.” So what? What does “more respect” mean? Not talking about someone who obviously made her feel a lot? It’s kind of the whole point of poetry, buddy.

    Anyway, if you’re that hysterical about this poem, please don’t read any Plath or Sexton, you might have a nervous breakdown.

  13. Samuel C:

    Your comments use the term “ladies” as some ideal for women to aspire to. You do know, don’t you, that the “ladylike” ideal historically has been set by men so that women would satisfy men’s cultural and political preferences (especially the political preferences). Also, your comment that men are “more sexually aggressive” is a post-Christian or post-medieval prejudice. Starting with St. Augustine, medieval Catholics believed that women were sexually insatiable and had to be controlled by men. St. Augustine believed that, in the story of Adam and Eve, Eve was soliciting sex when she gave Adam to the apple. Natalia Antonova herself posted many years ago (in a different online venue) that women have a stronger libido than men. If that’s true, then the narrator in Natalia’s poem is acting normally and not “unladylike.” Your idea that men are the sexual aggressors is a modern invention (pace Greek mythology — the gods were considered sexual criminals).

  14. I’m sorry, but men’s sexual aggression is just basic biology. Women can’t play that game. What happens when they do? Well, we all know what. Broken homes and STDs.

    I’m not trying to pick on the author. I don’t know her story. Maybe she’s a nice girl. She wrote a poem in which she’s intimate with a man she doesn’t love which is specifically stated in the poem itself. I happen to be a critic of that. I say it openly and proudly. I expect better from women. It’s because I admire them, not put them down.

  15. I would characterize this conversation as “sad.” It’s an extension of a conversation that happens regularly on this blog. It’s about whether or not I have “permission” to write about what I want.

    I don’t need your permission, just as male artists and writers don’t need your permission to write about women/to paint them/photograph them, whatever.

    As a heterosexual woman, I’m going to occasionally write about dudes. Get over it.

  16. Dear Samuel C,

    in between „in love“ and „just slept with someone and totally forgot about them the next day“ lies a vast array of emotions, thoughts and states of being that are complex, interesting and human. Maybe the fact that Natalia was able to grasp and explore that in this poem (which is really good and does exactly what poetry is supposed to do) is a testimony to „women‘s greater sensitivity“ (whatever that is) that you seem to admire so much.

    P.S. Life is hard for you, isn’t it?

  17. “Where are you now, with the stripes across your chest like days
    Darkness after light after darkness after light
    Are your bones weeping collagen in an unmarked grave
    Did you meet a woman who treats you right.”

    This part gave me goosebumps.

    It’s a lovely poem and if the depth of feeling here is something you are unable to grasp, Sammy, then don’t make it someone else’s problem. It’s stupid to argue about taste, but blaming the author for “broken homes and STDs” (seriously, what kind of an idiot are you?) because of a poetry that explores a complicated web of emotion is like calling Monet an anti-environmentalist because he painted London in the fog.

    I’m done here.

  18. “I’m sorry, but men’s sexual aggression is just basic biology. Women can’t play that game. What happens when they do? Well, we all know what. Broken homes and STDs.”

    I can totally believe that no woman has ever displayed sexual aggression towards you, but believe me, some of us have. Let me put it this way- Pussy Riot isn’t just a feminist punk band. It’s also what happens when I roll up in da clurb, which is incidentally why I’m not allowed to roll up into any clurbs anymore.

    Seriously though- You didn’t know that men spread STDs or cause broken homes?

  19. Yeah, very funny. Now think about the skyrocketing divorce rate and what that happened to coincide with.

    Look, sorry. I think it’s pathetic that Natalia Antonova’s fan club has come out so strong against me just for trying to say some basic truths about women and relationships. You people must have some kind of clique that really doesn’t like it when opinions are challenged.

    Miss Antonova, all I said was that the poetry itself strikes me as the kind of thing that should be beneath you. I think the sentiments you express in it, some of the sentiments, are very sad. I’m sure you can handle a tiny bit of criticism.

  20. Nat, I am saying this in the spirit of friendship and concern for you. Close the comments on these poem posts. All they do is attract crazy people.

    It is a privilege to comment on this blog and other sites, but in this case the author’s comfort should trump the privilege.

    It’s a wonderful poem, I loved it, I hope you put out a book soon.

  21. I have thought about closing comments here and in general, but, let’s face it, comments drive traffic, and I actually find the conversation happening here pretty fascinating. I find it fascinating that someone can basically say, “You should not write like this because you’re a woman.”

    Obviously, I ban the really abusive ones, but I think Sam’s comments here reveal much more about him and the mindset of people like him than they reveal about me. Although, maybe they also do reveal a bit about me – in an indirect way. The type of person who gets riled up enough by this blog to post here has been pretty consistent. If this were an exceptionally well-read blog, this wouldn’t stand out nearly as much, but it’s not.

  22. “Yeah, very funny. Now think about the skyrocketing divorce rate and what that happened to coincide with.”

    Well gee, if you’re talking about the US I guess you can talk about the skyrocketing divorce rate. You know, if you turned the graph upside down:

    “Look, sorry. I think it’s pathetic that Natalia Antonova’s fan club has come out so strong against me just for trying to say some basic truths about women and relationships.”

    You failed to establish that these are true. You also failed to give us an example of when you think things were better. In any case I doubt you have much wisdom to contribute on the subject of women and relationships.

    ” You people must have some kind of clique that really doesn’t like it when opinions are challenged.”

    Oh no I’m quite happy, though I’m not sure this really constitutes much of a challenge.

  23. Seems that young Samuel won’t be back now that graphs have been brought into the discussion. Something tells me this will be the case.

    The good news is, Nat! Kiddo! You continue evolving as a writer, don’t you? This is lovely. You are lovely. I hope an anthology is in the works.

  24. The idea that someone could be cementheaded enough to read that poem and see it as a banal political weapon is really appalling. How does someone read a poem like this and get “sexual aggression” or “the skyrocketing divorce rate ” or “Broken homes and STDs”? Well, he didn’t read the poem. And here I have to respectfully disagree with those who think that Samuel C’s narrowminded beliefs were in any way challenged or provoked by this poem. C is beyond narrowminded – he wasn’t provoked by anything in the poem because he never actually read the poem at all, aside from skimming it. His complaints and smarmy concerns are prerecorded in his tiny head; he just glanced over this blog to find something to use as an excuse for dumping his load of MRA bullshit on everyone, no matter how ludicrously irrelevant. He’s not really communicating with anyone else at all; he’s just playing his tape loop at maximum volume in what he regards as a convenient outlet. That’s all. Politics has eaten his head – he has no interest in poetry or any aesthetics that isn’t a political harangue. (I doubt he’s read John Donne either. John Donne – “a poet of real feeling, emotion, and imagery.” God save the mark!)

    Mr. C, this is a poet’s blog. You have no business here. Please go away and fight for your wretched cause over at Jezebel or some other place where various mobs of malign idiots like to bellow their hatred at each other. This is not for you.Be happy – you’ll win in the end. Or your opposite numbers will win, which amounts to the same thing. Plainly you and your enemies are on the right side of history, united as you are – MRA jerks, the two-bit Tumblr intelligencia, the idiot Trumpites, the smug, authoritarian Hillary legions of concerned mommies – all you despicable trash, who stand, inexplicably, where Americans once stood – you’ll get what you want. And what you deserve. This being the case, shouldn’t you be celebrating? This being the case, couldn’t you refrain from spamming your inane talking points, your “concerns” and your “respect”?

    I realize, of course, I might just as well be talking to a brick wall.

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