Category Archives: women

Their daughters

Paracetamol legends I know
For rising fevers, as pain-relievers—

Of my people—father’s father’s mother’s
Mother, dark lush hair caressing her ankles
Sometimes, sweeping earth, deep-honey skin,
Amber eyes—not beauty alone they say—she
Married a man who murdered thirteen men and one
Lonely summer afternoon her rice-white teeth tore
Through layers of khaki, and golden white skin to spill
The bloodied guts of a British soldier who tried to colonize her. . .

Of my land—uniform blue open skies,
Mad-artist palettes of green lands and lily-filled lakes that
Mirror all—not peace or tranquil alone, he shudders—some
Young woman near my father’s home, with a drunken husband
Who never changed; she bore his beatings everyday until on one
Stormy night, in fury, she killed him by stomping his seedbags. . .

We: their daughters.
We: the daughters of their soil.

We, mostly, write.

(First published in Quarterly Literary Review, Singapore)

My lover speaks of rape

Flaming green of a morning that awaits rain
    And my lover speaks of rape through silences,
    Swallowed words and the shadowed tones
    Of voice. Quivering, I fill in his blanks.
Green turns to unsightly teal of hospital beds
    And he is softer than feathers, but I fly away
    To shield myself from the retch of the burns
    Ward, the shrill sounds of dying declarations,
The floral pink-white sad skins of dowry deaths.

Open eyes, open hands, his open all-clear soul . . .

Colorless noon filters in through bluish glass
    And coffee keeps him company. She chatters
    Away telling her own, every woman’s story;
    He listens, like for the first time. Tragedy in
Bridal red remains a fresh, flushing bruise across
    Brown-yellow skinscapes, vibrant but made
    Muted through years of silent, waiting skin.
    I am absent. They talk of everyday assault that
Turns blue, violet and black in high-color symphony.

Open eyes, open hands, his open all-clear soul . . .

Blues blend to an unforgiving metropolitan black
    And loneliness seems safer than a gentle night
    In his arms. I return from the self-defence lessons:
Mistrust is the black-belted, loose white mechanism
    Of survival against this groping world and I am
    A convert too. Yet, in the way of all life, he could try
And take root, as I resist, and yield later, like the earth.

Open eyes, open hands, his open all-clear soul . . .
Has he learnt to live my life? Has he learnt never to harm?

Mascara

The last thing she does
before she gets ready to die
once more, of violation,
she applies the mascara.

Always,
in that last and solemn moment
the call-girl hesitates.

With eye-catching eyes
she stops to shudder.
Maybe, the dyed eyes
mourn her body’s sins.

Mascara. . .
it serves to tell her
that long buried
hazy dreams
of a virgin soul
have dark outlines.

Silently she cries.
Her tears are black.
Like her.

Somewhere
Long Ago
in an
untraceable
mangled
matrilineal
family tree
of temple prostitutes,
her solace was sought.

It has happened for centuries. . .
Empty consolations soothe
violated bodies.

Sex clings to her devadasi skin,
assumed superficialities don’t wear off,
Deliverance doesn’t arrive.
Unknown Legacies of
Love made to Gods
haven’t been ceremoniously accounted
as karma.

But still she prays.
Her prayer words
desperately provoke Answers.
Fighting her case,
Providence lost his pride.
Her helplessness doesn’t
Seduce the Gods.
And they too
never learn
the Depth of her Dreams.

She believes—
Cosmetics were
once. . .
War paints.
She awaits their resurrection.

When she dons the mascara
The Heavens have heard her whisper,
Kali, you wear this too. . .

(First published in Indian Horizons)

A breathless counsel

curiosity will catch you dear for you are a writer and it is your license to startle the world with a hundred thousand words instead of a dazzling smile or those occasional winks and i don’t want to probe for after all you are renouncing all the time and i don’t want to stop you racing against life but i have been there and i have returned and i know what happens when it takes hold of a woman yes i know what happens then but i will not tell you the answers i have sealed my lips i have learnt how not to say what i must be saying somehow i don’t want to be fledging you in security for what happens with all my parenting will only be a compromise darling child instead i let you free i want you to ask the questions i want you to prick and not polish your wounds i will let you to be hurt in the face of the world i want you to learn more than what you want to learn sometimes i feel i want you to get hurt badly hurt and bleed before the world and then i shall sit back and feel my work is done for once you have known what pain is then you shall know how to preserve the fringes of happiness i want you to be alone in the ravenous world where you never know what happens next just so that you will no longer find routine to be so despicable and amidst that pervading fuzziness you shall long for an anchor for all your dreams only realizing much later that you are your safety you are your ultimate but till then you might screech and scream but when you retain your temperament you will find that life will always lie waiting like an hungry beast and at each turn you take i wish you learn the greater horrors and now i confess darling i want you hurt because i want to watch you fight and fight and fight i want you to pull together those moonbeams of hope i want you to throb precariously i want you to be living on the edge i want you to learn the thousand one ways in which you can melt the boundaries of saturation called death and the emptiness of life and the fidgetiness of what might be called love i want you to lose i want you to win but some day i want you to be free

(First published in Indian Literature)

Apologies for living on

i am living on
because providing apologies is easy

once—

i was making choices
with insanely safe ideas of
fleeing-madly-and-flying-away

i was a helpless girl
against the brutal world of
bottom-patting-and-breast-pinching

i was craving for security
the kind i had only known while
aimlessly-afloat-and-speculating-in-the-womb

now—

i am locked away
a terrified princess waiting
for-death-and-not-any-brave-prince

i don’t dream or think
i just remember and wince
at-voices-of-the-past-smirking-in-sarcasm

once—

i ran away in the darkness
nothing beaconed me more than the
prospect-of-solitude-and-the-caress-of-a-million-stars

i ran into the arms of the ravishing night
nothing pulled me back: not even the memories
of-love-i-had-once-known-&-stolen-kisses-savoured-for-so-long.

i ran until terror stopped my tracks
for, trembling i turned and saw that the moon was
another-immodest-ogler-and-lecherous-stalker.

(First published in Great Works, UK)

Marijuana murdered him

Noon
A gray rainy day—
On a road less traveled the patrol tracked down much:

Him (him is now an it, a crumpled cruel corpse for women
To beat their breasts about); the wreckage (four black wheels
That speak of despair and a mangled red car-body awash yet
Soiled and the cold apparitions of smoked glass and steel);
The crime record—

He stole at home he found no work he pimped his sis he
Mortgaged his mom he raped a girl (the myth reads so: like
A crow calling its kindred he invited the last of his friends to
Join the feast, the fest, yes the plunder between her thighs)
He stabbed his professor dad he lived on air and alcohol
And insulin and morphine—but it was the marijuana that
Murdered him as he screamed at the vengeful rain that
Teased away his nirvana, the excuse of an existence. . .

No pair of exacting eyes to see the trees drive into a rage into
His car that once swallowed whole black roads but for the
God on his dashboard temple who had since returned to
Formlessness, to a hundred and eight tiny crystals that held
Psychedelic rainbows that outshone all the trapped sun. . .

Sun in the mouth

And the truth scorches and singes
the pink open flesh of your mouth
with its pungent yellow taste, so,
speaking the truth is not so easy
with just one tongue, anyway.

Seeing might have been closest
to truth and as Plotinus said
the eye would not be able to see
the sun if it was itself not sun
and so seeing was understanding.

The Egyptians called the eye
with the circle of the iris
with the pupil in the centre
as the sun in the mouth
and that was their truth.

Cyclops must have had little
to see in this vast world and
deprived of the whole truth
and that was his loss, his tragedy.

Even Argus with all his eyes
couldn’t escape in the end.
How much truth, how many eyes
of how many senses would it take
to tell the truth to the lord of the third-eye?

A king of a Tamil temple city
raged mad to know the truth
of the scent of a woman’s hair.
Since money bought truth
he made ready, a thousand gold coins.

And a poor poet still married to faith
prayed on to Shiva, the lord of struggling
survivors, lord of births and lives and
deaths, lord of poor poets who gave him
a poem to be sung at the king’s court.

A savant there picked a mistake like
peeling the scab of a healed wound
and said that the poem was wrong.
He said that any woman’s hair
did not have a natural scent.

The lord of dances and grey ash
and cremation grounds came down
to challenge this stubborn man who
extended his truth, even if the woman
was the consort of the lord.

He would not budge even if the lord
threatened to open his third eye,
the eye in the forehead which would
reduce him to bone-white ashes
as light as the wispiest clouds.
The court cowered in fright. . .

But in arrogance the savant said
a mistake is a mistake
even if it was the lord
of the forehead-eye.

O’ saint-bard and master of many wily words
What do you know of truth or love,
or the scent of a woman’s hair?
On the nights of naked sky and
a fragile quarter moon, my lord,
he of the deep blue throat,
he of the rivers in his hair,
he of the third-eye, comes to me.
Before he tears the blankness
of my womb, before he traces
the length of my spine, the curve
of my thighs, before he strokes
my cheeks, he buries his head
in the thousand and one nights
of my long tresses and he says
it smells like the wind-lost voices
of his childhood summers.