Poems and Other Myths:

A collection of spoken word poetry by women from Asia.


Deborah Emmanuel


Even before I was born, I had a story.
It was told before me, murmured through crowds,
echoed through cathedrals in the tick-tock of ancient time,
frozen on the stained glass of holy halls,
falling from the lips of a man in robes with all the answers.
In this story there was two, but one was made from the bones of the other.
This was my woman genesis, and the origin of many of us,
flesh-clothed ribs stolen from the wholeness of men,
companions for cocks, fit into like the slits on slot machines
like "oh I'll take a gamble on this one she looks nice".

My mother, she came out of the petals pretty, ribs in perfect position,
precision lined over her heart like display swords but
no blades could protect her from the pain of no permission,
from I'll take what I want because you were made to serve me,
from trespass teeth and the shattered peace of a silent room.
She became shame, stammering apology,
sheath clung to skin because she was most real when a man saw her,
when my father touched her, smacked her, told her he loved her.
I watched her handled, saw tolerance slowly fill her eyes
like rising water in a boat about to go down,
the vessel of my indoctrination.

I became pleasure games for a man to play,
I became close your eyes and it'll be over soon,
you don't have to like it, just be good and take it,
don't say no when he chokes you, when he pushes,
when he thrusts into and fucks you.
Both of us, mother and child beguiled into being,
christened at the same altar we didn't choose,
held in the palm of omniscience I have never seen.

In church we were taught that you did your best to be a good girl,
to preserve your communion in a sacred case, host cast in gold,
only to be unhinged for the one who would keep it for eternity
like alpha and omega, the beginning and the end,
our history wedged between the bookends that define us,
the shelves that store us, the rooms that imprison us
since we are meant to be kept, not keep,
we are meant to be told, not tell,
we are meant to be silent and still,
to take what we are given and be grateful.
Well I am not grateful.
I want my story back.

This is my genesis, the return of my truth, no original sin,
no woman temptress who took a forbidden apple,
who ate the mind of a snake then fed it to a forsaken man. 
We are all forsaken, abandoned for power,
for the sweet smell of banknotes and the jingle of coins,
drinking the insidious nectar of institutions which decided
that woman came from the ribs of man,
that man had to work and woman had to birth,
that we are driven by different needs
when we breathe the same air from the same tree.

We have all been led astray by one serpent, yet we vilify each other
as if there is ever autonomy, as if we have all not eaten the same lies,
the same words like "duty" and "promise" and "right" and "wrong".
I am emancipating myself from the story I was forced to take as my own,
no more hallelujah, no more amen, 
no more forbidden fruit except what we put in our willing mouths.
We are our own lords, our own enslavers, our own saviours,
There is no man in the sky making our decisions,
there is nobody who is going to write our story except us,
there is no genesis but what we choose and what we repeat,
no apple but the one we decide to eat.


(This poem uses lyrics from the Charles Aznavour song She)

She may be the face I can't forget
The trace of pleasure or regret
May be my treasure or the price I have to pay
She may be the song the summer sings
May be the chill the autumn brings
May be a hundred different things
Within the measure of a day

She smiles across her green face
there is no envy.
She shrieks a shaking storm
there is no malice.
She extends bark skinned fingers
to tickle a laughing sky.
She cradles creatures in grassy palms
though they make her cry.
She sings her old songs with mud encrusted lips,
music to stroke humanity's ears
but they
arrogant and insular
but they
imagining independence without her gifts
are listening to the voices of spluttering cars,
they hear blips and beeps,
computer generated sounds,
the breaking glass of buildings coming down,
diggers digging up her flesh to put more tar on the ground
while they snap off her fingers one by one
while they release their poisons upon her fragrant breath
while they puncture skin to suck blood from her veins
to fuel more machines
to make more buildings
to build more cities
to house more people
to birth more armies
to kill more children
to continue the war we wage upon ourselves
more money 
more power 
more money 
more power
more respect
more respect
what are you doing she asks
what more do you need when I give you everything
when I offer you meat to peel off my bones
when I feed your insatiable mouths with the fruit I grow
when I flow with clean water to drink 
but you fill it with garbage and oily ink
you burn my forests
you trawl my coral
you dirty my beaches
you kill my monkeys
you torture my kittens
you slap your child again
you sit watching television
you sell another microwave
you get another promotion
you drink more champagne
you eat another slice of cake
you close another deal
you smirk at another waitress
you starve another migrant worker
you evict another refugee
you displace another tribe
you bomb another mother
you hurt
you hurt
you hurt

She may be the reason I survive
The why and wherefore I'm alive
The one I'll care for through the rough in many years
Me, I'll take her laughter and her tears
And make them all my souvenirs
For where she goes I've got to be
The meaning of my life is she
She is not angry.
I lied.
She loves unconditionally.
She might even be a he
might even be an it
is probably a they
but we need to stop fucking them up.