Growing

Growing

When I was four years old
My hair was in pigtails
The pin straight parting line, an indicator
Of the righteous path
I was meant to follow

All the way down
To my eyes stained with kohl
To ward off darkness
Underlining my eyes
Underplaying my achievements

To the crook of my nose
That was religiously massaged
By well-meaning keepers of my sexuality
Who sniffed out solitude
From the arch of my nose

My earlobes pierced
Before I could say the word gender
Branding not just my femininity
But my place in society
Weighed down by its expectations
But still enduring

The fuzz above my lips
Smeared with concoctions
To rid itself of sins
That would mar the image
Of a perfect woman
My lips aching
For lipstick to stain them
The foray into womanhood
Only completed by this rite of passage
But not too dark
Dark means evil
But doesn’t dark ward off evil too?

Saira Banu

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Of battles and wars

Of battles and wars

Of battles we fought inside
Like spiralling whirlpools
Never allowed to spill
Always dripping
Not parched, but never full
Unlike the wars they indulge in
Gushing forth like a tsunami
Washing over battles
For the victory of the war

Of battles that are fought
Over tears shed
For fathers, and brothers, and lovers
Of the wars that they fought
Over the honour
Of what lies between our legs

Of battles fought quietly, demurely
As is expected of our fights
The carnage, our dreams
The spoils, their might
Unlike their wars
Unlike the havoc they wreak
Claiming the laws of the universe

Of the battles we endure
Of all that we ration
As the wars they fight
Steer out of their bastions
The wars they wage
While we salvage

Of all the battles provoked
The ones we did not want to fight
Of the wars we were dragged to
A display of their spite

Of the battles they fought
But claimed were wars
Of our war
The one waged everyday
Against the world
Against us
Against war in itself

Saira Banu

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