Vinita Agrawal, author of Words Not Spoken, is a Mumbai-based, award-winning poet and writer. Her poems have appeared in Cha, Constellations, The Fox Chase Review, Pea River Journal, Open Road Review, Stockholm Literary Review, Poetry Pacific, Spark, The Brown Critique, Mandala, among others. She was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards 2011, awarded first prize in the Wordweavers Contest 2014, commendation prize in the All India Poetry Competition 2014 and won the 2014 Hour of Writes Contest twice. She was featured in the ten questions interview series on Fox Chase Review. She has presented papers on women and Buddhism internationally and intends to write a book on Buddha’s travels. Her second anthology is due for release in 2015.
SOME THINGS I KNEW THE DAY I WAS BORN
I’d craft phrases
To please your delicate ego
Never tell you what I really thought or how I felt
only what you wished to hear
I’d disappear inside my home
nor you or the children would care to look for me
I’d nurture modest dreams, mildly defining who I was
but not in a way that might threaten your kingdom
I’d dress demurely, cover my legs and shoulders
curb the desires marbling somewhere around my navel
I’d chokeon my own wild silence
on some dark nights of stark solitude
Being born female is a crime
I’d be so soundless that I might not be at all
Worst of all, duplicity would be my greatest talent
hypocrisy and fakery my biggest virtues
So it would go on, without respite
everyday – a blank page
Some things I knew the day I was born
HIDE AND SEEK
He was a paw.
A city-bred shark.
Eyes beady likeblack stamensof scarlet poppies.
Skin greasy with diabolical adulthood.
When little girls in the neighborhood vanished,
Mother forbade us from wearing hair bands, bobby clips
and accepting candies from strangers.
We saw peccant phantoms on staircases, terrorteeth in parks
felt angina like fear in our chests ondeserted roads
Lust was a saliva glinting bubble
Lust was the nigella blackness of fingernails
Mother said he was single dimensional
Tricky as the weather
Cheap as plastic
With a wind chime voice.
Dogs hated him –
raised hackles when he passed by.
Tuberculate shoe buckles
became the focus of our eyes.
We daren’t look up at all –
doves were extinct. Vultures ruled.
Lust was a rough shoulder blade
a razor, a miter, a chicken wing, a priest
our pinafores, a game of hide and seek… it was anything.
Despite all, he cornered us once;
in our checked school uniforms.
Said he was a game developer.
Despite all, we blushed and giggled.
Not quite sure of…what?
Tamarind and raw mangoes churned in our stomachs.
We stared as his arms morphed,
squid-like, into eight tentacles.
We screamed. We ran. That afternoon we ran.
Ran till we met the skies
Lust was a rainbow slashing the heavens.
Lust was the first weak breath returning to our lungs.