Face-off

No more hiding

behind white lies

that I play on repeat

in my head

which feels

as if it would crack open

from the sides

and the lava will pour out and scathe

my eyes

and ears

and seal my lips

so that I can no longer

speak excuses.

.

No more blame games

no complaints.

No more digging for places

to hide

from my own gaze.

No more death by analysis,

seeking refuge

in the crevices.

.

Act

or go up in smoke,

I see no other way –

for once I’m in the line

of my own fire.

Release

“With this we come to the end of this pretence. Now everyone may do as they please.”

Half the people left the party.

She & I

We walk together, hand in hand,

treading the narrow, covert lanes

that lead nowhere.

.

I like it here, she tells me.

I do, too, I want to say, but decide not to.

.

One delirious evening

I tell her I like the calm of these alleys,

that my eyes are now accustomed to the darkness.

.

Her face lights up with the knowledge.

She’s now certain

I will never leave her side.

.

But somewhere deep down she knows

one day I’ll be anxious to go,

to find some light,

just enough to light my path.

.

We walk for days.

I see a turn

that I know I want to take.

I pull away gently, she looks at me

with pleading eyes.

.

Come along? I ask.

She wilfully plies.

.

We step out into the world

as she nervously walks by my side.

It’s chaotic, she whimpers. Weren’t we

better off in the alleys?

.

I don’t know, I tell her,

but I do want to try.

.

So we set forth together,

hand in hand,

my anxiety and I.

स्त्री

उसे इतनी भी इजाज़त न थी

कि एक आह भर ले

उतनी देर में तो एक

रोटी सिक जाती है

Something broke…

Something broke

and I lay the shards

out in the sun.

I sat there watching,

letting my skin burn,

until the blood stopped flowing

and someone whispered in my ear,

‘go on, take shelter,

this is not yours

to mend.’

कपड़ा

बचपन में देखा करती थी

बीर दीदी और गुड्डी दीदी को

कपड़े की क़तरनें तार पर सुखाते

.

क्या हैं ये, सोचा बहुत

पर किसी से पूछा नहीं कभी

.

फिर एक दिन मेरी बारी आयी

कपड़ा ढूँढने, लगाने, छुपाने की

धोया और सुखाया तो नहीं कभी

(पुराने कपड़ों की घर में कमी न थी)

.

पर वो गीलापन

वो दाग लगने की tension

वो बैग में extra skirt स्कूल ले जाना

दाग न देख ले कोई लड़का

पूरा दिन घबराना

.

फिर आया pad का ज़माना

वो aunty की दुकान तक

पैदल चल कर जाना

और काला लिफ़ाफ़ा लेकर

छुपते छुपाते वापस आना

.

पैड भी कोई नई मुसीबत

से कम थे क्या

लगा कर देखो

घंटे भर में रो पड़ोगे भैया!

.

कभी कभी सोचती हूँ

ईश्वर क्यों देता है

इतनी छोटी उम्र में

इतनी परेशानी

जवाब मिलता है —

यह तो है स्त्री शक्ति की निशानी

.

हँस देती हूँ अंदर ही अंदर —

बच्चियों की परीक्षा है यह

और कुछ नहीं

सत्रह का होने तक रुक जाता

तो, हे ईश्वर, तेरा क्या जाता?

.

आज पैड ख़रीदने में शर्म तो नहीं आती

काला थैला दुकान पर ही छोड़ आती

.

पर, हे ईश्वर

सशक्त हूँ मैं अब,

आपकी इच्छानुसार!

.

यह शक्ति अब ले लो वापिस

और कर दो मुझे आज़ाद।

thesaurus

Lee Price, Women and Food, Painting, Poetry
Refuge, 2009, oil on linen, © Lee Price

Respite

Escape

Relief

Revenge

Rebellion

Grief 

Elation

Release

Regret

Celebration

Longing

Dope

Love

Reproach

Medication

.

There’s a secret world

where I call my food

a thousand sweet names.

Wilful Defaulter

Lapsus calami

A half-baked, half-burnt cake

lies in the bin

where no one can see it

but only smell

its barely alive flavours.

.

I look at the clock.

It’s half past ten, time for

another cup of tea infused

with just the right amount of ginger

and some more me time.

.

I sink into my favourite end of the couch,

the one with crumbs

from last night’s dinner.

.

I order a cake, and the world

is suddenly an easier, nicer place.

.

My tea is now just the right temperature.

I wash down mom’s guilt,

one sip at a time.

.

In the motherhood universe,

I’ve yet again turned

a wilful defaulter.