Poems and Other Myths:

A collection of spoken word poetry by women from Asia.


Aina Singh


The swan stuttered and spluttered

Its beak choked on the tarry air

Saraswati was pissed

Hadn't planned for this

Dammit! What's wrong, bird

The air of this city is unbreathable

Delhi is killing me! Take another vehicle

I'm a goddess, be reasonable. Get up and buck up

No can do, Saraswati. Ride something else, buddy

Welcome to New Delhi, where mobility is a privilege

Forget climbing the ladder to success

Here, everything is a horizontal patience test

And, girl, you'll get nowhere

Not even from A to B

Rubbish! screamed our divine new entrant

Determined to gain ground

The rosy white hand reached out

Calling upon the powers that be, she hailed an autorickshaw

Yellow green blobs sped past

Only stopping to hear the name of the desired destination

And deciding that providing services wasn't their calling in life

The passenger's dreams lay crushed

By refusals to follow the rate meter

Never before, thought the goddess of knowledge and music

Have I had to use my lotus-like feet for so long

And on terrain so unorganized, that it must be the work of Shaitan!

There are huge cars on the roads, and smaller ones on the footpath

The people seem to have no problem, though

Only women of this city seem intelligent enough to avoid the outdoors

Oh look, a metro station at last

None of the staring eyes helped in this discovery,

She would be Columbus, if she weren't a Hindu devi

Quick! Ladies' compartment or general?

Whichever is closest in this mass of faceless travelers

Hands seek her, bodies push her forward

There is a spring in her step

Because the only acceptable way is forward and inward

There is no going back now

The laws of bodily autonomy do not apply in the Delhi metro

Even a goddess is just a woman

And the price paid for having a vagina

Is hardly ever compensated for

No point being pro-choice in Delhi, dear

The choice is only between straying fingers

And convincing men to vacate the ladies' seat

Together, Brahma and I create the universe

Over and over again, we create

But don't create a fuss, madam jee

He did nothing, he was just standing

Don't stand up for what you felt

Just get off the train and forget

Automated doors let her through

Metallic gatekeepers of the city's heart of lead

Our heroine has celestial vision

But it is hard to see beyond the escalator's last step

Sweaty men in brown cage the exit-

Auto, madam Maddum, auto

Some point, others slap the seat of their vehicles

You want it, don't you

You need us to get anywhere

Even (and especially) home

Yes, take me away

Wherever, set the price too

Hear, O' woman believed to heal and purify

Stay away from danger

Stay away from deceit

Stay away from despair

Stay away from Delhi

Hurry back, don't, don't stay the night

From a North Indian Woman to a South Indian Goddess


Do not tear off that breast

Keep it, Kannagi

The city of Madurai will burn anyway

The power of your will

Will be lost in translation

Not across languages

But across genders

We women love with all our might

Sita from the north

Pattini from the south

You love will be misunderstood, Kannagi

Keep that breast, Kannagi

Manu said women must never be left alone

A man must watch over his sister, wife, mother

But Ram left, and so did Kovalan

Kannagi, if they could not even obey patriarchy

They are hardly worthy of feminism

Kannagi, don't tear off your breast

It will escape the minds of all but a few

That your devotion despite all

Was a sign of humanity

Humanity in the face of ruthlessness

Not a sign of defeat

Or feminine helplessness

Or pious chastity

The world does not know forgiveness

The world does not know fortitude

The world does not know a phenomenal woman

Even when she hits them in the face

With a breast

So, Kannagi, keep it, please

He placed all above you

Yet the other woman he left you for

Was nothing to him in the end

Fickle are the ways of men

Who believe in the scriptures

Kannagi, don't go to the town to defend him

The laws are never made for us

We can never win

The rules ask for us to always give

Kannagi, boycott the game

Your act will become yet another ruse for kingship

One king died of shame

After his shortsightedness killed your husband

Another will venerate you

After his farsightedness will kill your story

In the tussle for glory

Breasts are merely a source of nourishment

What are gods but props for kings

And what are kings but props for gods

No one will see you for your strength

You will always just be the loyal wife

Turned into a timeless goddess

Kannagi, don't do it

Women everywhere every year will be told a false tale

And urged to believe

That they cannot be Pattini without Pati

That the breast is useless if it cannot feed children

That the woman is useless without her man

Such a world must indeed be set ablaze

Not at the cost of your pain

Not in the name of our men

Not with the anticipation of divinely status

But with the fire of our resolve

With the flame of our hope

With the light of the brazen new world

With the glow of the breasts that are hers before anybody else's

Kannagi, keep that breast

It is yours.