Of all pronouns, she recognises the second-person
as the backyard of a dream – though unvisited, seen
every time she beckons to it.
Unschooled into the egotism of a singular I,
otherness unabsorbed into a plural we,
personhood suspicious of a she,
she has been you all her days
unwisely estranged from herself.
At five, a public lavatory wall
had loudly screamed who she was,
a torso with three balls
in an inverted therefore.
Inspecting herself carefully on return,
she encountered circles at the right places,
a rude graffiti on history’s hall of shame.
At puberty, one circle became a hole
which she was told must be guarded
from the t/error of making babies
with (un)wanted men.
The hole to their drain outlet in the bathroom
firmly blocked with a brick against rodents,
she now looked for bricks wherever she went.
In a twilight crowd, an unknown man had once
casually squeezed her breast as he passed by.
As involuntarily as a blink, cough, sneeze, yawn.
As rightfully as stretching one’s limbs at dawn.
To confess then, however, would have been disgrace.
She had unflinchingly walked on
as if slapped only by a cow’s tail.
The x-greedy porn-fed watch real women
like g-stringed fantasies stepped out of mobile screens.
On every female frame, they map an inverted therefore.
(No rights, supposedly, are infringed in being thus stripped to the core.)
In life that betrays art, the perfect organ and orgasm elude.
Senses grow comatose between the moan and the scream.
When she assertively demands Whisper,
the storekeeper is uncomfortable she bleeds.
He finds her objection to its newspaper wrapping
little worse than undressing on a street.
At work, a single napkin becomes her bookmark.
Male colleagues squirm. Dirty feminist.
Female colleagues call it angling. Fishing for a man.
She makes a mental note to replace the napkin on the book
with a self-test pregnancy kit tomorrow.
Sometimes, even spite is rewarding.
Sometimes on the street men pass her by sans stares.
Sometimes the therefore doesn’t matter.
Sometimes she is so every body, she is no body.
Sometimes her only qualification is her art.
Sometimes she blends into a crowd.
Sometimes anonymity is a prize.
Sometimes she can afford to be lost.
The more layers I have,
the greater is their determination
to see what is inside.
Unsecretive, I reveal all
in stories, poems, and the rotis I make.
It’s not three or five circles that I hold.
My circles are manifold like a tree.
If you ever arrive, you will be surprised
to behold inside the same universe
that cradles you outside – earth-womb,
unchequered land, unconquered sky – except that
here your freedom comes from limbs and mine
from laws that promise to punish yours
while inside, definitions have been banished for good
and one needs only be with no need for o(be)dience.
Flawed. Flamed. Flowing. Fearless. Free.
Basudhara Roy teaches English at Karim City College affiliated to Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Author of two poetry collections Moon in My Teacup (2019) and Stitching a Home (2021), she loves, rebels, writes and reviews from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India.
Featured image: Representative image. Photo: Reuters/B Mathur