Unholy Women

By Chris Abani b. 1967 Chris Abani
                     But of course these poems are

about men,

          which we become by defining how
we are not women

                               and
                                        
                                          so becoming

a shadow devouring the light to find the limits

          which is what Richard Pryor would have told Joan of Arc
in a joke funnier for being sexist

                     “It’s a man thang.”

And of course there is God

                     and its problematic relationship to light

not to mention the question
                                         
                                          of permission

                                Who builds the box, the shape?

It makes sense that Jesus, the new man 2,000 years ago

          was a carpenter.

You need that craft, the precision of measurement

                     angles of angels

who incidentally are never women.

          Just ask the Romans, who called them Angelo, Angelus

                     never Angela—

                     that lie was coined by a dissident nun hiding
her feminism under the cover of rapture

but

                     is it enough to announce yourself?
To beat your chest in contrition calling

          Mea culpa! Mea culpa?

Guilt can never be enough
          Mere intent—where is its purpose?

                     Yet there are no answers

there are only lines that disappear

          into horizons that girder us with safety

                     just as there is no way to end this poem.

Chris Abani, “Unholy Women” from Dog Woman. Copyright © 2004 by Chris Abani. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: Dog Woman (Red Hen Press, 2004)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Chris Abani b. 1967

POET’S REGION Africa

Subjects Religion, God & the Divine, Christianity, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Gender & Sexuality

 Chris  Abani

Biography

Chris Abani is part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experience of those born and raised in that troubled African nation. Abani began writing at a very young age and published his first novel, Masters of the Board, while still a teenager. The plot of the novel, a political thriller, proved uncomfortably close to actual events; it mirrored a coup that was carried out in . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, God & the Divine, Christianity, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Gender & Sexuality

POET’S REGION Africa

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.