Earlier this year we commissioned three writers, poets Sophie Collins and Momtaza Mehri and novelist Ned Beauman, to produce works in response to Hayward Gallery’s exhibition of the artist, Lee Bul. Here we present the first of those works, Momtaza Mehri’s poem, Make Kin Not Babies.
Momtaza Mehri was recently named the Young People’s Laureate of London 2018. She is a poet, essayist and co-editor of the digital platform Diaspora Drama. Her work has been featured in DAZED, Buzzfeed, Vogue, BBC Radio 4, Real Life magazine and Poetry International. She is a Complete Works Fellow and Page winner of the 2017 Out-spoken Prize for Poetry. Her chapbook Sugah. Lump.Prayer was published in 2017.
a response to an exhibition of the work of Lee Bul
Art is the act of peeling yourself back, like the skin of a grape. So the masters say.
A woman dresses in a suit of organs and need. It still isn’t enough.
They wore you out so you wore your body inside out.
The audience claps. Then leaves. They always do.
Alone is where you find yourself, in all your multiple and murky versions.
The ache of sinew, the long tentacles of regret, lipgloss and blood stains.
Lie back on a bed big enough to drown in. Each pillow a checkpoint.
The world stands by at your feet. Prefers this uncomplicated slumber.
Here, you cause problems to no none but yourself.
Know better. You should have know.
To advertise the wound is to sell your own suffering.
Fashion hurt into headlines. You are an exposed nerve, the colour of a blushing sunset.
A cyborg was never a metaphor for a woman. It is the inheritance.
We reconfigure around our shared loneliness, its diamond-cut edge.
You want from us what we can’t give you; the trust of an insect as it lands
On a bare hand, knowing it could be crushed by its resting place.
What is love but this terrible knowledge? To leap anyway, in a mystery of ways,
Into the glittering lip of the unknown.
To survive the death of dreams and the birth of new ones.
Think of the elders. The blueprints. Everyone who had to snap in half
So that you could be on this side of the map. You leak this history and call it witness.
Wide mouthed & woozy, you are the evidence of teeth marks on butter.
You are a news bulletin.
Each morning, you announce yourself anew.
The only border you believe in is the cellular membrane and even then –
Even then, you spill out of yourself.
Drink from the iron sea with your sisters.
Watch the daylight make its slow pilgrimage. Your eyes as open as rhetoric.
Make demands of this world.
Expect nothing but the miracle of tears & firewood, a country with a missing arm,
the sticky film of squamous cells, the confessional slide of cold tomato soup down the throat.
You are a nation. Man-made and self-invented. Cross the boundary
And see yourself from the other side, your chest rising and falling like currency.
Out of breath but never out of time. A dream made flesh and bone and circuit.
Wave to her. Tell her you are coming.