Pragya Gogoi is carving a niche for herself in contemporary Indian poetry with her powerful poems ever since the release of her debut bestselling book. With a handful of awards in already her kitty for her poetry pieces and record-breaking book written in just 3 days, the talented young poet is gearing up for book number 2 where she is laying special emphasis on women centric themes. Here’s a collection of some of her best written women centric poems this year.
WOMEN OF FIRE
Tw- Sexual abuse
For the longest I can recollect,
I have floundered to fathom this country’s hypocrisy.
I discern tongues enumerating prayers on temple altars
where flowers congest below the idols of goddesses,
the same oblation carrying hands reverting home
to abuse women.
My fingers, bleeding poetry on most nights
Fizzled to determine values of x’s and y’s in labyrinthine equation systems
And hence when I was 12, I got a tutor at home
who calculated the size of my breasts more than variable values
And taught me more of human anatomy than algebra,
His lewd eyes scanning my body more precisely than x-rays ever did.
He asked me one evening if I would sleep with him
and pinned my hands against the wall, stuffing my mouth with cotton
oblivious that women had the sun burning betwixt her thighs
and flames lighting up her belly;
she is made of wildfires in her hair
and embers trapped between fingernails
to burn libidinous hands into cinders
and drown oceans with her eyes.
Men like him, soaked in lust,
do not understand we are no less
And that every time they try to smirch us in cloistered roads-
at dusk or dawn, envisaging us
to wobble before their feet like petrified kittens,
women made of fire
exfoliate their tainted imprints,
absolving her divine body
with three drops of honey and a bucket of milk
and fills herself with lemon scents
to bury the rotten smell of their mouths.
Men like him, aberrating us to understand love
in bruised skin and sealed lips,
do not realize,
women of fire rise again….
LIST OF THINGS MY MOTHER SHOULD HAVE TAUGHT ME WHEN I WAS A KID
I grew up betwixt 2 bashful towns
And a 3rd loud city.
Memories- a lion’s share of it
Like trees through a cloud of dust.
But from traces I can recollect,
my mother didn’t teach me
She didn’t tell me
those hairy hands of uncles
caressing my neck and inchoate breasts
My mother, raising 2 daughters
didn’t teach me to love myself.
On dinner tables,
I swallowed less of rice
and more spoonful of self loathe.
She served on the chinaware
epitomes of ideal kids,
scorning how I wasn’t like them.
And tells me how she yearned
I was one.
My mother, carrying in her tender back
the sack of patriarchal rules
didn’t teach me
that women had a voice,
to stand up for themselves
in vanquishing male households
And have a universe
tucked beneath their kohl eyes.
My mother, seeing me bleed
didn’t teach me periods were
I grew up around men
hushing about bleeding
Conjecturing how it made me unholy
And how speaking of it upfront
of a round table family conference
made me a flagrant criminal behind bars.
My mother didn’t teach me
“Log kya kahenge” was frivolous.
Instead, she taught me to walk
around the periphery of it.
My dreams could conflagrate into cinders
but tongues of other people
My mother didn’t teach me
that it wasn’t erroneous to fall in love.
She told me how society will talk
with their vicious tongues,
and taught me good girls
only garland strangers chosen by family
And bad girls fall in love.
IZZAT TUCKED IN MY SAREE FOLDS
The 127th night,
Hands pinned to clean white sheets,
My nostrils inhale the smell of cigars-
The one that reminds me of burnt coffee
And the ashtray in our smoldering kitchen.
I hassle to see him,
My gaze perforating the clouds of smoke
Circumventing the pipe
Almost admonishing to asphyxiate me,
Blinding my eyes- watery and haggard.
He tucked under my blouse
10 crisp notes of 500,
Reminding me of how my body was bought each night.
I obscure tears in the creases of my profaned skin
And tuck my izzat in folds of my saree
Letting his brown hands explore
the mountains and craters on my body’s terrain,
Nefarious nails and teeth engraving asperous lines-
The color of charred bricks on my fair back,
The amalgamation almost resembling the roots of the old Banyan in our village.
My body feels like raw meat,
Devoured in bits, each night by a different vulture.
At other times, my body resembles a bush of spring blossoms
The petals withering away with every lustful touch.
6 summers ago, I saw my identity burning-
A slow, mephitic death; the ashes buried in my collarbones.
My sarees exuded sharam, the torn blouses sniveling in reticence,
Coerced to beguile the flock of flesh hungry hombres.
My kids- whose fathers I don’t know, wail at home for rice
One of them, Kabir looks like Abdul– who paid me each night for a month
And whom I never saw again.
The other evening, Kabir came home crying
The villagers at the teeming village market called me kasbi (whore) he said.
The word burns my throat,
like a stream of hot charcoal cascading down my esophagus
to incinerate my bones and rotten flesh.
Will the sharam conflagrate in this fire too?
I hold my inflating belly in tears,
A 3rd child whose father I didn’t know,
A 3rd child who will have his veins poisoned with my lewd blood,
A 3rd child who will grow under the canopy of my tainted identity.
Do I even have an identity?