Two Poems by Sohini Chatterjee

Where’s my independence?

1947 brought a different independence

Than the novella in my head:

Where heroines dressed like themselves

But were accorded the valor of heroes.

Where an aimless drifter was a woman with matted hair

But the word “witch” did not exist in village air

Where a friend was a Hijra whose every taali was Holi

So gender became a misnomer for inner fire and joie de vivre.

Where men forgot the violence of violent gestures

Where honour had no place in vaginas, but, did in virtue

And every strange eye reached the depths of your soul

In search of beauty but did not perish at splendor.

And all erect fences on borders were crossed with unhurried steps

Because consent likes to play hard-to-get

But sometimes flings itself at you,

So new limits are defined for a day.

Where the word “No” from the mouth of a woman

Did not leave a metallic aftertaste

Where midnight was legitimately the beginning of another day

So she walked barefoot on the beach

And her skin soaked the darkness of night.

Not unbecoming, but resplendent in near sight

Because freedom tends to look that way

When hyenas die in the absence of a prey

In my fiction kindness flowed through every vein

So a river of blood didn’t drown a mundane street

And a tomb did not ravage itself with wails and grief

and death was a friend who took you home as reprieve.

They gave me independence in a flag

But left me hungry for my fiction that were to become life

So I gathered my friends of words of love and light

and chose to live in a different state (of mind).

Letter to my child

Dear child, I don’t know who you are

Or who you are gonna be

So I won’t afflict you with the scalding anguish of

Pinks and blues and tutus and tiaras of gender

So that strangers can walk all over you

Thrust their claws into your heart

And call it civilization.

Dear child, I will name you Impervious

To the rights and wrongs and in-betweens of a body

So your territory is a flower garden

Whose thorns are homeless at dawn

so by morning your blood flows into flowers

and becomes one. So you can find beauty

in springs of your inner blossoms.

Dear child, I won’t burden you with pronouns

That washes away rainbow tinged hope from faces

So mirrors mourn their loss in shards.

I won’t impose the stifling singularity of

Sartorial truth that ruptures through your sinews

With cruel flattery from vacuous strangers with strange names

Stranger hankering for violent games

So you rip off the muslin and bandage rotting wounds

And call it fashion statement

But the lie hurts, the skin crawls, singes the soul.

So I will spare you the drama and the stage.

And open up the treasury of love

So you can rummage through it till you find rage.

Dear child, I won’t tame your fire with my whims

But gift you the promise of patient hearing

through the window of silence and wall of grief

through the torment of tortured memory and

the pile of bodies that revolt your being

So you can breathe before flying the nest

So you can discover your path through

The grim of dusk and treacherous cleft

And return home to visit museums for stacks of

Antiquated fears and self-contempt stored away

To feel safe to return to them at will and without peril

So strength ceases to be intangible and leaps out of its shell

To grace your fingers and your chin.

Dear child, you will be your own hero

Your own master and your own slave

I will only pour in oxygen

When you are out of breath.

Sohini Chatterjee holds an MA in International Relations, her work has previously appeared in Kindle Magazine, Cafe Dissensus Everyday, Huffington Post India, Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, The Lookout Journal among others. Sohini is a feminist and writes primarily on gender, culture and politics.

#poetry #sohinichatterjee #motherhood #feminism #independence