Where Boys Do Household Chores Too

He brings the bread.
I serve the cooking.
I can bring the bread,
but he will never do the cooking.

A cuckoo cries out somewhere but I do not
Have the sensibility
to look out, or keep still
till the sound, or the bird,
or both, die out:
Maybe she is raising her voice,
Else reprimanding someone who did.

I can rest my unease knowing
That the language of birds
Is not understood by my kind.

Us women, we do a lot more
Than cooing.

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How Dare I Be Born with Ambitions and a Vagina 

​I was born of the womb of another like me 

They looked at me and said there is no jewel finer 

But I was sacrilegious and blasphemous, they soon realised 

For how dare I house within me ambitions when I have a vagina?

You see, it is antithetical, for my voice is redundant 

Meant to be kept low, to remain unheard and unimportant 

For I am an accessory, not my own person independent 

but wife of, daughter of, mother of – always defined by a man. 

They tell me my body is a temple when temples do not let women pray 

They tell me my sight is a temptation that can lead men astray 

That compromising my modesty will name me a whore 

They tell me some things, they tell me some more.

And who are they, may you ask, and why this they say 

And why not let me find my own way – well, see,

It will make the patriarchy curse, make blood curdle in its veins

For I may get a mind of my own if they loosen the reins.

On streets I collide with men whose paths I allegedly stand in 

For I may be invisible to them out in the public sphere, in a man’s world 

For they may see me as domesticated and expect me 

to step out of their way, and not the other way round. 

Like birds who never left cages thinking of flight to be an illness 

The victims of generations of internalisation of weakness 

Some old women, they tell me to speak no ill of the men who protect me

While these so called protectors spew swear words degrading my anatomy and identity.

I was born of the womb of another like me 

But now I seek to break free of my gender’s perceived infirmity

The shackles will lay broken soon enough if we try 

To educate and empower, to listen to what speaks the cry.

And to the men and women who look down on me I say 

These aspirations won’t be a part of me if it weren’t meant to be this way 

Just like the goddesses we put on pedestals to bestow respect and  honour 

I was born with ambition, and it doesn’t have to go away because I have a vagina. 

Identity

“He was a beautiful soul”, speaks his mother, pausing to sob into her handkerchief. Her tears are of loss, of sorrow, but despite everything, not of regret. She still calls him her son.

She turns back towards the gathering of apparent gloom. There is no body, for they couldn’t bear to look at it. It lies buried six feet under a headstone marked as ‘beloved son’. It lies in a casket softer than the bed the person it belonged to slept in, draped in clothing these people no longer ridicule.

The father of the dead faces an old portrait of his only child. He died at 23, but the portrait dates back to middle school, for after that he had become a disgrace. The photograph is framed in silver and placed high on a pedestal as if in high regard, where the deceased was never pictured, even as he was slowly dying of being denied an identity.                                 

“My son”, he says, “was confused”.  His words fail to hide the fact that he spoke, not of his deceased child, or out of love for him, but for his own consolation. He doesn’t cry.      

“He was confused”, he repeats.

More come forth and speak as the service goes by. They speak of the departed as an inspiration, as his death a great loss to the world. It’s funny how hollow their words sound, how transparent their lies are – oozing with the guilt of never having being said while the referred was there to hear them. What’s funnier is how they only ever talked about this person like they do now – in third person, for they never conversed with the person at hand, only about.                                                                                                                                         

And yet, they all line up now with nice things to say, acting like they all lost their best friend, jerking up tears lacking the hurt they had forced onto this person all his life, and which ultimately led them to this funeral. One by one, they count off the niceties, offer condolences to the parents who stood by the old portrait in each other’s arms, and go back home whispering things they didn’t dare say at the service for the sake of etiquette.

And as usual, as at every such funeral, one comes forth in utter refusal to speak about the deceased, and talks, instead, about how suicide is never the answer —  about how there was always hope, a silver lining to every cloud, a dawn at the end of every long night. His speech is met with approving nods and sad faces, erasing the real cause of death by the ‘fact’ that the one they lost had been suicidal.

But what had really killed him? It wasn’t  suicide or recklessness. It wasn’t  the choking pressure of not being able to meet the expectations of his family. It wasn’t being bullied all his life. It wasn’t being denied a peaceful existence. It wasn’t even the fact that ‘he’ did not wish to be addressed with a ‘he’.      

In the end, it was everything he endured through all of this that killed him.

In the casket lay the body of a girl who hadn’t been born in the body she wanted to be in. A girl who was never accepted as one. The girl had been found alongside a gun missing one solitary bullet, but it was not her own hand that killed her.    

 She pointed the gun at her head when she couldn’t see another way ahead, and society pulled the trigger.