Hadara Bar-Nadav

Winner of the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award in 2017

Dress (Aurora Borealis)                           

 —Ambreen Riasat was a victim of an honor killing on April 29, 2016. Thirteen people, including her family members, were arrested in connection to her murder.

See me for miles—


A disturbance.
(I am disturbed.)

            and skinless.

            Electrical, all
A knife of ice
carving the sky.

White blades, 
white fathom,


White that is red
is pink is hue

           is glazed enormity,
            tangerine plush.

And then comes
the blood,

            scarlets on fire.

Why is a girl always
on fire.       

What makes her

           the cut waist,

          thighs rushed
           by smoke,
           roil of voile,

So I loved, laid, slept
for days, blinked,

breathed flame,
paraded like a god.

Gianter than god
and vincible.

          Made of nothing at all.
          a fuse of refusals.

And am I beautiful
now, who owns beauty,

waiting for your tongues
to slip by.

* * *
Forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review. 


Francisco Aragón on Hadara Bar-Nadav

Poem in Your Pocket Day came early this year.  I've been carrying "Dress (Aurora Borealis)" inside my front shirt pocket these past few weeks, retrieving it at idle moments, returning to it—coming to terms with it. At first, I felt guilty the way one might feel for rubber necking out a car window to glimpse a wreck. Thoughts that came to mind included "striking," followed closely by "jolting" and then, finally, "deeply disturbing," echoing the fourth and fifth line ("A disturbance./(I am disturbed.). But who is speaking in this poem? It is Ambreen Riasat, the victim of an honor killing ("So I loved, laid, slept/for days, blinked,//breathed flame,"). Or is it the dress Riasat wore the day of her death ("breathtaking,/the cut waist…roil of voile/combustible.")? It didn't matter. The chiseled and arresting artistry of Hadara Bar-Nadav's poem haunted me more and more with each re-reading. (Who was it that said, "Poems aren't meant to be read, but rather re-read?") Braiding two- and one-lined stanzas down a page and a half, Bar-Nadav composes lines that range from one to three beats, creating a vivid, almost unbearable sense of the gruesome. And yet we get, towards the end: "And am I beautiful/now, who owns beauty,". Isn't any work of art worth a damn replete with contradiction? Deploying a masterful minimalism, Bar-Nadav has created a memorial to a particular human life, but also a crucial and necessary reminder that violence against women is, sadly, still the order of the day.  

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