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Lay for the Day 2nd May

The six-day Roman feast of Floralia (see 28th April) was a high time for the city’s prostitutes and dancing girls – a festival of flowers, and hence of sex. They would perform naked in the streets, and join in with the gladiators in the arena.
The poem was written about events in Iran, after the Islamic revolution.


Song of the Iranian Prostitutes

We warm earth with our blood impartially
as we did you who kill us with our loving –
you or your brothers in need
of ease from their seed’s insistence.

We recognise them in you;
you share first names
and your second names – fearful lust,
shame, tenderness unknown – are also the same.

Fathers of our fathers made the law to kill us
and the money to keep us alive.
I don’t see you look in our eyes
at the moment of penetration.

With us strange women you turned aside.
In our arms, between these folding legs
you gladly forgot to be earning paradise.
You’d bought it for a moment second-hand and half-price.

Bullet smashes a breast you pressed,
tears the nipple you triggered.
Our sister’s unwon heart is burst in mid-beat
but her cry doesn’t show how God is pleased.

The beauties he’d given us,
when you had confinement and labour to offer,
we used to be an arm’s length free of you.
At arm’s length you rid earth of us.

Earth is awash with our life
as with righteousness in a just day.
Oh men, then where will you go from the earth
or into what heaven can you be received?

John Gibbens
from Makings ’84-’88


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar


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