Friday 15 December 2017

The doer and the done upon

Since the day I sprawled on the floor
And was asked to sit “properly”,
I started carrying in me shame
That was not of my doing
But was contained in my being.

When a boy I didn’t know
Whispered foulness in my ears on the school playground,
I started making sure my loose shirts
Kept my chest as flat as it had felt that day,
In those seconds when the air inside me had frozen.

When the middle-aged bicycleman airkissed me
I pedalled hard, “Nonono but this is all a mistake
Doesn’t he see doesn’t he see how couldn’t he see
I am thirteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen?”
I learnt the roads do not carry my weight like I had thought; they weigh me down.

These, and a few more of such recollections,
And I could find a way to end the poem
But that is not the way to end a story
And that story has not ended
Because stories have character development.

How many things must be rotten in our Denmark
Where character develops in some
Because of the lack thereof in others
But what you’ve gotta do you’ve gotta do
And this is how the story has progressed.

When I went to Taekwondo class
And sat down to stretch my legs on both sides
As far as they could go, till they hurt, till much much after the hurt
And two girls stood with their feet against mine, silently promising me I won’t relent,
On that winter morning, the flame of pride in my thighs kept me warm.

When I named parts of my body
(That had started asking why I never spoke to them)
To tell wide-eyed men of the exact violations they had committed,
Which they insisted on being blissfully unaware of,
I discovered that my tongue and language could be allies if they spent enough time together.

When, out of sheer courtesy, I returned the gaze foisted upon me
And took my time to take in this bundle of nerves
That was fast turning to jelly,
I knew my eyes were street dogs who could fight on half-empty stomachs
Because every day they got pulled into games others played that were battles of survival for these “strays” who refused to be tamed.


The story goes on
In the hope that more characters develop, and even more evolve.
But before that I want to pause and listen to my body, which says
It wishes to unlearn the fear of what could be done to it,
It wants to show me everything it can do.

First published in Tuck Magazine, 15 Dec 2017. Subsequently published in Califragile, 26 Dec 2017.

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