“The Woman Dear to Herself” (Azizatu Nafsiha)

The woman dear to herself lives in the heart,
alive to the everywhere presence of divinity
The woman dear to herself does not lose herself
in the presence of man,
woman, or child

The woman dear to herself loves
for another what she loves for herself,
and loves for herself,
neither in conquest nor in surrender

In love she remains whole
She doesn’t chop herself like an onion
She doesn’t peel herself and sweep away the dry peelings

The woman dear to herself, when she has her period
says “I have my period,”
understanding that her powers are not a curse
She knows the geography of her body
and how to give good directions home
to those whom she selects for company

The woman dear to herself gives herself breast exams and running shoes
and eats well and washes her face in the river
and cherishes the beauty in other women as in her self
She wears dignity like a mantle
It swings lightly from her shoulders when she moves

The woman dear to herself, when come the spring rains
-O meeting with the beloved!-
knows where to find the first stalks of green

So that when the rivulets stream and stream
over brown muds, crocuses will open oval buds and hyacinths
will triumph flush and pink tiny flower after tiny flower and
jonquils
everywhere
delight
the woman dear to herself,
she who lives
in the heart
of every man,
woman, and child

1996

Mohja Kahf

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