of forts and malls and cinema halls
is littered with the filth of our minds
and our mouths.
We are lost; we are broken;
we are muffled and soft-spoken.
Big city dreams
of art and changing the world
slip away every time we wake up
on grimy beds we’ve never seen before
with soot on our feet, and our hands
bound with ***** hair,
backs bent under the weight of all they’ve left us.
The mud in our fingernails leaves us a mess,
in the shapes of the night's sticky, grubbiness:
a twisted Rorscharch inkblot.
We see it all replaying,
—flickering, as we’re swaying—
on grimy ceilings, where the light bulb
seems askew, and dangling
in an effort to hypnotise us,
left, and right, and left.
Every day is a repeat of the same,
—chai glasses, and cigarette butts
rickshaw rides (exactly thirty rupees steeper
than the rate on the meter),
cat calls that slap in one ear and slip spit out the other.
Our roads are lit by TV-light,
a muted glow that follows us everywhere.
Anonymous blankness follows blankness
and the dark dankness
of grocery stores and souls
that can’t recognise each other anymore.
Silly young things dreaming of bliss,
And new couches, and tiny feet
Instead hear only
"Scrub harder," "Needs more salt," and
"Turn over; come closer; be quiet."
Bare feet in splotchy grass
with brown and green ankles
are replaced by sore heels and push-up bras.
Pens scratching on paper
are replaced by knives slashing skin
and flesh and bones
hitting sharply so that the onomatopoeia
of the shlick-crack-crack
draws out delighted laughter
from blackened, smoky mouths
— and peals of screams that no one hears,
the afterthoughts of parking lots.
The fire of fingers leaves marks, scars;
and their tips grow spikes
into the goosebumps on our arms;
knuckles peel away skin,
everywhere they trace;
and fists clench
around our bodies,
that don’t belong to us.
But we know, one day,
our spring will come
and we will leave the heat on our backs
We will go down with Persephone
and take our flowers with us.
We will swim upside down
so we feel like we can fly.
Every rock laying unturned, we know,
has a cosmic universe throbbing
patiently under it.
We will lie, resilient, awake at night,
dreaming cautiously, softly,
so no one hears,
but dreaming nonetheless.
Dreaming of our wings melting
over and over again,
when we get too close to the denied,
day after day, until
we can build wings strong enough
to hold the heat of the sun
inside them, and then propel further.
We’ll show them
— tell your sisters and daughters and friends!—
we’ll show them,
Because your sticks and stones
Can break only our bones
And not our minds. We are
Goddesses, even in a dimly lit bar
Or the back of a fast car,
Just as in temples. We are
Goddesses, whether we whisper in soft tones
Or shout it in the streets,
Whether we lie in strangers' sheets
Or break our backs bending
to ***** feet.
When we're beaten by a spouse,
Or changing tactic,
We'll be both your angels in the house,
And your madwomen in the attic.