my art doesn’t smile.
a sunday dinner in my family looks a lot like closed rooms with no windows.
my father sits as an artist painting saffron on every page of the newspaper mentioning politics.
my mother sits with her hands in her food, palm lines faded in a bid to create textures and tastes no one comments on.
my brother is on his phone, looking at another symptom of his OCD that he refuses to acknowledge.
and i, sit as the token writer – my words hidden from that table, tucked in my palms behind my back.
my art does not smile; often, neither do i.
my art is bright colours – a swimming paper of turquoises and blues;
calm greens and hint of peaches as an ode to lip colour i always wanted.
but neither of those colours look bright on paper;
my professor once saw me write and looked for happy words. he found none.
my dissertation supervisor looks optimistic until she reads the draft i sent her.
(it’s never good enough because i don’t smile in it)
my art isn’t happy. which is okay. right?
my ex boyfriends told me i look angry/intimidating/unhappy
they told me they were afraid of me. they told me to smile more.
i liked that fear.
i am afraid too. i am afraid of the way i go out of the house and smile at the security check at metros
at the university guard;
at the professor from the class i attended once and never went again.
i am afraid of the way i smile with too much teeth, my canines visible enough to bite through their flesh.
i am afraid of the way they smile back, with a lot more genuinity than me.
i afraid of the way i am not afraid of not smiling. i am angry, i feel too much.
i feel so much sometimes it pours out in cigarette smokes that are too thick and aggressive.
see, i have been told to smile by men a lot. some women here and there, but i always hear men in their voices,
who told them to smile.
i have been told i don’t smile enough.
so, my art doesn’t smile enough.
it’s bright but not cheery. like me.
so when a man look at my art and tells me to think happier, to pain brighter, to write cheery,
i look at the man, make him stare down my eyes
and see all the ways he makes me angry –
all the ways i don’t want to smile because of the colours he sees me in.
i make men afraid because i don’t fear their fear. i like looking at them and not smiling,
of blowing cigarette smoke in their direction,
of seeing the way they see my unbending anger
and fire and rage and decide to turn the other cheek.
my art doesn’t live to make happy. or brighter.
my art isn’t for your daily consumption of smiles.
my art rages because i cannot sometimes.
my art burns like i do.
my art is meant to sit at sunday dinners with me,
walking over my father’s saffron dreams with its bright opaque shades,
cutting through the textures of silence of the food with its sharp edges,
and to glaze over my brother’s obsession with his obsessive tendencies,
letting him be. looking at him with a not-smile he won’t look at.
my art sits at top of you, waiting for you to start fearing the smiles you force me to smile.
my art lives to make afraid – to make you smile back at yourself, not me.
my art makes uncomfortable, so you know how i feel living each day in the same house/street/metro/college as you.
my art doesn’t die like men. my art doesn’t die – because women don’t die.
Featured image credit: Aashmani Ghosh