Read an excerpt from Athena Farrokhzad’s award-winning poetry collection White Blight

The JRB presents excerpts from White Blight by Swedish poet Athena Farrokhzad, translated by Jennifer Hayashida.

White Blight is published in South Africa by uHlanga Press.


My family arrived here in a Marxist tradition
My mother immediately filled the house with Santa knick-knacks
Weighed the pros and cons of the plastic Christmas tree
as if the problem were hers

During the day she distinguished between long and short vowels
as if the sounds that came out of her mouth
could wash the olive oil from her skin

My mother let bleach run through her syntax
On the other side of punctuation her syllables became whiter
than a winter in Norrland

My mother built us a future consisting of quantity of life
In the suburban basement she lined up canned goods
as if preparing for a war

In the evenings she searched for recipes and peeled potatoes
As if it were her history inscribed
in the Jansson’s temptation casserole

To think that I sucked at those breasts
To think that she put her barbarism in my mouth







My mother said: It seems it has never occurred to you that it is from your name
civilisation descends
My mother said: The darkness in my belly is the only darkness you command





My mother said: You are a dreamer born to turn straight eyes aslant
My mother said: If you could regard the circumstances as extenuating
you would let me off easier



My mother said: Never underestimate the trouble people will take
to formulate truths possible for them to bear
My mother said: You were not fit to live even from the start





My mother said: A woman dug out her mother’s eyes with her fingers
so the mother would be spared the sight of the daughter’s decline








My father said: You have a tendency towards metaphysics
Still I schooled you in the means of production
when your milk teeth were intact






My mother said: Your father lived for the day of judgement
So did your mother, but she was forced to other ambitions




My mother said: In your father’s sleep you are executed together
In your father’s dream you form a genealogy of revolutionaries


My father said: Your mother fed you with imported silver spoons
Your mother was everywhere in your face
frantically combed out the curls




My mother said: For a lifetime I envied your father’s traumas
until I realised that my own were far more remarkable


My mother said: I have spent a fortune on your piano lessons
But at my funeral you will refuse to play


  • Athena Farrokhzad was born in 1983 and lives in Stockholm. She is a poet, literary critic, translator, playwright and teacher of creative writing. Her first volume of poetry, Vitsvit (White Blight), was published in 2013, received several literary awards and has been translated into a number of different languages.

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