Dionne Brand: “ Hard against the Soul ”Posted: August 31, 2011
I saw this woman once in another poem, sitting,
throwing water over her head on the rind of a country
beach as she turned toward her century. Seeing her
no part of me was comfortable with itself. I envied her,
so old and set aside, a certain habit washed from her
eyes. I must have recognized her. I know I watched
her along the rim of the surf promising myself, an old
woman is free. In my nerves something there
unraveling, and she was a place to go, believe me,
against gales of masculinity but in that then, she was
masculine, old woman, old bird squinting at the
water’s wing above her head, swearing under her
breath. I had a mind that she would be graceful in me
and she might have been if I had not heard you
laughing in another tense and lifted my head from her
You ripped the world open for me. Someone said this
is your first lover you will never want to leave her. My
lips cannot say old woman darkening anymore, she
is the peace of another life that didn’t happen and
couldn’t happen in my flesh and wasn’t peace but
flight into old woman, prayer, to the saints of my
ancestry, the gourd and bucket carrying women who
stroke their breast into stone shedding offspring and
smile. I know since that an old woman, darkening,
cuts herself away limb from limb, sucks herself white,
running, skin torn and raw like a ball of bright light,
flying, into old woman. I only know now that my
longing for this old woman was longing to leave the
prisoned gaze of men.
Dionne Brand was born in Trinidad in 1953
and graduated from University of Toronto in 1975.
She is black, lesbian, feminist – three powerful things.
Toronto’s Poet Laureate, she is also the 2011 winner of
The Griffin Poetry Prize for her long poem Ossuaries.
The companion poems above are excerpted from
Brand’s series “Hard against the Soul”, part of
her collection, No Language is Neutral
© 1990, Dionne Brand.