(Picture borrowed from the Internet)
Violence against women or episodes of misbehaviour and assault are not new or recent. Though many of them are now coming out of their own shadows against the guilty, there have been several of them who have used their voice and words as expression.
Here are a few poems opening up perspectives like an old wound that have existed for a long time. Long since the evolution of mankind, perhaps!? It is a wound that remains sore till date in the growing wake of emancipation and liberation. But then, there were voices and they are going to be many more and such voices need not always be a victim, though we all have been, actively and passively, in one way or the other. Right to equality is not about ranting constitutional definitions or seeking to bring the scale to balance every time but seek a few of them in ab solute terms. Dignity is certainly a priority.
With these poems we unearth the fossil of this ember.
Caprice by Sarojini Nadu
The Nightingale of India layers the unspoken in this poem.
You held a wild flower in your fingertips,
Idly you pressed it to indifferent lips,
Idly you tore its crimson leaves apart
Alas! it was my heart.
You held a wine-cup in your fingertips,
Lightly you raised it to indifferent lips,
Lightly you drank and flung away the bowl …
Alas! it was my soul.
The Looking Glass by Kamala Das
Getting a man to love you is easy
Only be honest about your wants as
Woman. Stand nude before the glass with him
So that he sees himself the stronger one
And believes it so, and you so much more
Softer, younger, lovelier. Admit your
Admiration. Notice the perfection
Of his limbs, his eyes reddening under
The shower, the shy walk across the bathroom floor,
Dropping towels, and the jerky way he
Urinates. All the fond details that make
Him male and your only man. Gift him all,
Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of
Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts,
The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
Endless female hungers. Oh yes, getting
A man to love is easy, but living
Without him afterwards may have to be
Faced. A living without life when you move
Around, meeting strangers, with your eyes that
Gave up their search, with ears that hear only
His last voice calling out your name and your
Body which once under his touch had gleamed
Like burnished brass, now drab and destitute.
Kamala Das’s poems are known to be outspoken, much ahead of her times and relevant even today. A contemporary poet of her times, she was often ridiculed and judged by her works that spoke of her audacity while exemplifying a woman’s desires and choices.
A poet friend of mine once mentioned that when a woman writes about sex and physical desires, she is assumed to be writing from her own experiences and many do not hesitate in questioning her ‘experiences’. But this does not hold good for a man.
Sadly, nothing much seems to have changed from the times of Kamala Das.
Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath
bears a sarcastic tone on the bigotry that has been neutral to economies, civilizations and development. It stems solely from the attitude of the twin creations – man and woman.
I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——
A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot
My face a featureless, fine
Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me
And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.
These are my hands
I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
That knocks me out.
There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——
A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
In the next series we explore more poems and voices by contemporary poets of today.