Your Body Is War contemplates the psychology of the female human body, looking at the ways it exists and moves in the world, refusing to be contained in the face of grief and trauma. Bold and raw, Mahtem Shiferraw’s poems explore what the woman’s body has to do to survive and persevere in the world, especially in the aftermath of abuse.
A groundbreaking collection, the poems in Your Body Is War embody elements of conflict, making them simultaneously a place of destruction and of freedom.
Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet and visual artist from Ethiopia and Eritrea and now divides her time between Los Angeles and Addis Ababa. She is the author of the poetry collection Fuchsia (Nebraska, 2016) and the chapbook Behind Walls and Glass.
“Elegant and heart-wrenching, these poems possess a powerful voice that travels across oceans to reconnect with the language and stories of Ethiopia, Mahtem Shiferraw’s homeland. Your Body Is War speaks poignantly about the inherited historical traumas, the ache and beauty of memory, and the strength it takes to endure the wounds of a nation, of a family, of a conflicted self.”—Rigoberto González, author of What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of Brotherhood
“This is a collection of harrowing, prismatic lyrics made by severances and war and possessed by memory and place. In a language that dilates between the epic and the humble, nearly invisible, Mahtem Shiferraw does not once allow readers to imagine that war is anything but bodied, personal, inherited. Shiferraw’s work is elemental, brilliant, fierce; and with mystery and exactitude, she pushes language past itself and into breathtaking resonances. There are lines I will never forget for their power and for what they reveal about how this poet’s thinking shapes the terms of her and her speakers’ survival(s). ‘I am yellow, / I have yellow in me // and it does not / let me die.’ I believe these poems are part of that survival—a trace, a strategy, a prayer record assembled in the ruin of Then that is perpetual, that is also always Now.”—Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria
Table of Contents
Swallowing Suns Your Body Is War (I) Madhouse The Art of Invisibility The Suicide Chamber The Tree of My Deaths Behind Walls and Glass Your Body Is War (II) Ash and Blue Body of Punishments Like a Lover’s Quarrel Water The Curse of Ishmael Black and Blue Death by Trains The Memory of the Body Your Body Is War (III) Genesis The Old Tree The Wrong Kind of Dream Your Body Is War (IV) Journey with Dante At the Mad Man’s Water Dreams The Body Book Conversations with Self The Yellow Woman The Fruit Mother Ghost Procession Your Body Is War (V) Acknowledgments