He didn’t touch me when I bled every month
Banished me to a dark room instead.
The yellow bulb blinked more than my trembling eyes
There was not even a crack through which some air could pass.
Oh, if you think how heart-breaking that room was
Wait till I talk about the tremendous relief I felt, alas,
While panting and bleeding alone, on its dirty mosaic floor
Knowing with utmost conviction,
That it was only during this time he wouldn’t come at me
Like the monster that lived ON, not UNDER my bed.
That during these days, I was beyond the reach of his dry, cold fingers
Of indifference and lecherous starvation.

On other days, I wasn’t as lucky
As to live the fairytale I was promised
Through narratives of delirious pride
That our foremothers took while covering for their lousy men.

“He doesn’t beat you up, does he?”
“Didn’t he buy you gold last year?”
“Oh, I envy how you don’t have to wash lipsticks stains
Away from his collar that you know weren’t yours!”
So, I counted my blessings
Like I counted sheep in bed every day
As he snored beside my half dead vagina.
It throbbed for hours still, mostly in pain
Of being forced into, of being violated when unready
And a little of loneliness, of desires that will forever stay unmet.

And yet
I woke up at the crack of dawn every day
I birthed his heirs and raised them too
I bathed every time before I’d cook and pray
I washed all clothes and kept the bathroom clean
I plunged so deep into the commode sometimes
That I felt like a fish swimming through industrial waste in the river
Gasping for a breath and flapping my fins.
But I was at home. Covering my nose and clearing those bins.
I washed and peeled and chopped and cooked
The neighbors asked about the aromatic sizzle
But he? Read his books and went to work
And hung out with friends and never looked.
Breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner
My hands grew old and my hair grew thinner.

He may have forced himself on me some days
But he truly never beat me up.
He bought me jewelry every year
He didn’t bring home the scent of another woman,
For the most part, at least.
Did he love me? I did not have the time to care
I was taught to read his silences as him being there for me.
And so, I stayed grateful, chore after chore
I scrubbed and cleaned and cooked some more.

But what if I had given up one fine day?
What if I had simply said NO
To the invisible work I lost all my life to?
What if I stopped cooking our meals
What if I let the septic tank overflow
What if I let so much dust sit on his desk
That I could write FUCK YOU on it
With my old, exhausted fingers?

The Great Indian Civilization

It has been years now, a lifetime perhaps,
My eyes are faint, I hit menopause somewhere between
Now, if you listen intently, you can hear me laugh at this irony
You can still see my silhouette rolling on the floor
Of that dark, dingy room in which I used to be kept
So that my filthy blood doesn’t break his holy oath.
If they’re was so scared of our little blood
That fit inside the cuteness of a pink menstrual cup
How come they have built the world on its tide?
Do they really think that we bleed only for those few days a month?
Or those few years that they call our ‘prime’?
Can’t they see this flow, this river on the banks of which
They have raised their monuments, built their towns?
Will they still pretend to stay all unaware
As we quietly bleed and quietly drown?

We have watered enough civilizations with our blood.
I promise you, our daughters are on their way…
And they’ll bring down empires with a swish of their flood.

P.S. This painting and poem was inspired by a beautiful review of the movie The Great Indian Kitchen written by Hema G. on her Facebook profile. I found her through a feminist group and have been constantly inspired by her and her writing ever since.