For a Woman Whose Name I Do Not Know by Nadia Colburn

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

In the photo the woman looks out.
Someone is taking her photograph:
Her face is white, a dark face covered in the white
of plaster as it falls.
You cannot do this
in a poem. You cannot take someone else’s suffering.
What poetry of
witness? Is there a child still living? Does the lover
remain inside the ruins of the house? And her mother,
where is she? Mother,
where are your arms?

                         In the photograph
the woman’s eyes scream. Can she be
her own witness?  The whole building fallen down
on her torso. Her waist, her legs, her sex
buried underneath.

And her chest and arms, her face
sticking out:

             Someone is watching
in the dark, covered by light,
covered by the idea of light,
                          Be the eyes. Be the weight
of what happens. Be the place
you cannot say.

Nadia Colburn’s poetry and prose have been published widely in such places as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Women's Studies Quarterly, Yes! Magazine, and elsewhere. She’s been awarded a P.E.N Discovery Award in Poetry holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Columbia University, and has taught literature and creative writing at MIT, Stonehill College, Lesley University and at private workshops around New England. She is currently an editor at Anchor Magazine: Where Spirituality and Social Justice Meet. Nadia has also worked for with the G.I. Rights hotline and with Small Planet Institute. Some of her other interests include Buddhist meditation, feminism, deep ecology, hiking, yoga, travel and spending time with her husband and two children. More about her can be seen at