They laid me atop the marble table,
They laid me bare and then they cut me open.
Under the sheen of morning dew coating the glass ceiling,
They laid me bare under my skies and ripped me open.
Hacked away at my skin, they did
All the while chanting
Too smooth, too soft – how could this child survive?!
They gave me scars all the while whispering to me how strong I will be.
They cut open my rib cage and took out my beating heart –
Flailing like the hapless canary between the cat’s teeth
Too soft, too big – how would this child make it through?!
They leadened my heart with lessons in pain – all the while teaching me how to not feel
They looked through my gut – and exclaimed –
How tiny! How small! How would this child devour the world?!
They poked and prodded, tugging here and tugging there
All the while telling me – “Grow that appetite!
Devour all you can!
That is the only way to grow!
Here take these razor sharp tooth as you go!
Oh well – take this tongue too for its a set of two!”
My hands were too small to grab the world – so they made it bigger.
My legs too small to reach lands I should conquer – so they made them longer.
More! More! More!
I heard them chant.
They took my eyes unclouded –
Coloured them with scrutiny and mistrust
And called it Realism.
They took my curiosity and wonder –
Poured into that void cynicism and religion
And called it Faith.
They bled me out – my crimson – with it, my poetry,
Filled me up with preservatives of worldly knowledge.
They embalmed me with expectations
And marked me a prodigy.
They gifted me with privilege one short than that of many, but better than most.
They told me to steel my back,
Race my track but with their leash on my neck,
Move ahead and never pause,
And for the Love Of Heavens – never look back!
You don’t love unless it’s approved of,
You grieve as much as we deem fit.
What are you unhappy about, child?
You are so much more!
You want that? Earn it!
You want this? Fight for it!
The world is treacherous – now so are you!
We will make you Strong. Perfect.
Your blood – now so very Blue.
And on that cold marble table top,
Under my skies, under the eyes of my sun, stars and moon,
Under the eyes of my Goddesses,
They cut me open and replaced me with hunger and ambition.
They then told me that was the way to live.
They cut me up – that little me –
and stitched on to me –
Parts they wanted to be mine
Atop that table, sutured with filial piety and societal standards,
They made a chimera out of my little body.
I made my way through the world,
Wading in shallow waters,
Never testing where it ran deep,
Never exploring uncharted territories.
Read my manual to the dot – I did – for my body was no longer mine.
I heard me speak – in a disembodied trance.
I was speaking – but was that voice really me?
Along my way I met others,
Some lost their way,
Some moving ahead with a ferocity that made them chant –
Look, see, learn! Be like them! Be better than them!
They gave me this body and they made me this way –
And now – what a shame!
How much more could this child have done!
How much more could this one have become!
Why could not you be more like them?!
On my long perilous journey, I lost my identity –
Too many parts stitched on to my tiny body,
Who was I?
What was I?
Am I whole or part of a whole?
Was I mine?
Or is this body mine?!
This child then started asking questions,
To self, to others,
Started to listen to others’ tales
Tales of sorrow, love and success
Amazed at the courage they had –
To feel such emotions
Slowly – inch by inch
I took my misshapen body back –
But back from whom, I did not know.
Finally, once more, I had a body.
I was told to learn – learn to feel,
Learn to love,
Learn to be – by people who walked ahead of me,
By people who walked beside me,
And I turned to see those who walked behind me,
But in their own path.
For many years I contemplated – was this blasphemy?
They cried at me – look at you!
What are you doing?!
Have we not done so much for you?
We know what is best for you!
I asked them back,
This time in my own voice –
Tell me then, where does my body end, where does your begin?
Which is my voice and which is yours?
Which is my reality and –
Which is your ambition?
They cried I was asking the wrong questions,
They cried that I lost my way.
But for once in my centuries,
For the very first time,
I was breathing my own air,
Talking in my own voice,
And learning to love the chimera I have become.
They tugged at the leash,
My sutures begin to bleed,
My heart was now soft,
My appetite was now my own –
I did not want to devour worlds,
I just wanted a mouthful of my dreams.
I bled out what I didn’t want in me,
I bled out the toxicity.
I breathed in poetry,
I breathed in my sun, stars and moon.
My eyes cleared and now I could finally see –
Without the filter they had put in me.
My embalmed body is now my own,
But is it decaying or is it still intact?
Does it smell like rot and decay or do you smell life?
Do you see the carrion or do you see me?
I am learning, unlearning, testing my waters and putting my boundaries.
My little body is now my own.
I am but still a chimera,
But the flesh is now my own,
I am learning to own myself – all parts of myself –
I am taking back the ownership of my body,
And I’m just one of the many.
A huge shout-out to Mathangi S. and Priyank Jain, two of my favourite people, for reading the poem first and giving me valuable input. Thank you, both of you!