‘The Femme Fatale’: a Prose-Poem

fire

Image source: Burning heart. searchpp.com

 

She shuddered, screamed, gorging up in flames
Stumbled upon her own shadow,
The black clouds of despair.
The flames devoured her, burnt sienna,
The vapor and choking odor of fire
And crushed desires. The bathroom door creaked,
The smell of flesh and skin, tattered, lost, the tears
Sliding up and down the labyrinth of pain,
She kicked the door, pushed her face, flickering
Towards the window, she had known the futility
Of this scream, this rush to live, on the verge of surrender.
“Help, help, I want to live”, ‘for one last time,
I want to live”, the thick fog of men, and women,
Family, neighbors, sliding around, contemplating,
Inch by inch, witnessed a devouring, broke open
The door, the charred flesh recoiled, stockpiled against
Their ceaseless inquiries. “Why did she do this?”
A hunched, elderly lady frowned. “How could she do this?”
A middle-aged housewife cried out. “Let’s rush to the hospital.
We may still have chance. Maybe the doctors can save the baby still.”
Her young son said; he flung his arms around the body in smoke,
Others poured buckets of water, to pacify the flames.
In the narrow front porch, where the queries and smells
Of the smoke reiterated in fragmented bursts,
Her toddler son of three chortled as he caught ants and frolicked
With the stray dogs. The child was searching for
His first learnt words, hashing and rehashing,
“Mother, mother, Maa, my Maa”. They took her away,
The world came around him in a maze, haunting, deep, dark,
Implausible, like his newly learnt words, pauses, phrases.

The flesh surrendered, slipped into an infinite void.
Inside the latched door of a surgical ward, doctors struggled
To evacuate a charred human fetus from a fire consumed womb.
The girl fetus had a blue tinge of sky in her furrowed forehead,
Her silken hair, tousled, smoked, mirrored her mother’s,
She gripped her fading earth, her last breaths, hanging loose,
Interspersed with her mother’s last, dying embers.
The earth didn’t shatter with this half-baked tragic tale,
She was a femme fatale, after all,
And the girl breathing inside her would trail after her,
For sure….words splashed along, riding in waves,
Waxing and waning, the neighborhood lapped up the waves.

In a household of ten people, a husband, and his kith and kin,
Each a furious, complaining drone, her tears regenerated each night.
Her kitchen chores, her fasts, and religious obeisance,
The cups of tea she made, her humming presence, a threat to
The sound and fury of their thundering voices.
At twenty four, married, with a toddler son, in a family
Of patriarchs grumbling, and well-meaning matriarchs
Looming above her, she gulped spoonful’s of their want
Gagged, clenched her lips, serving up hot dinners.
Nostalgia, music, books and old friends, emaciated memories
Forlorn, burning through the night sky.
The husband would come to her, grope her in between
Frantic, long distance office trips. Their love whispered,
Rolled around, surreptitiously,
A grey, forbidden piece of fabric.
She was the unexpected gust of wind, flinging her presence
Too fast, a witch, ensnaring their son, their brother
With her furtive eyes, her thick curls, her frail melodies.
In months and years, the magic potion they whispered
In his ears, worked. She was truly a witch, slapped, snapped
Drugged into silence; the words he spoke to her,
Transformed to a darkening quiet.
She had hidden the torn, dead skin of her nightmares,
She smiled, sang lilting love songs in the terrace,
Hugged the coconut tree, its leaves canopying her afternoons.
In a terrace right across, a wistful young man had played his flute.
All day, she chased her truant toddler, a kite in the verdant air
In the afternoon, the young neighbor held in his arms
The chuckling child, fluttered their wings together.
In the terrace, their surreptitious glances floated
In clusters of poetry, the shades of her desire,
Scarlet, bronze, earthen, pastel, unveiled in the untimely rain.
The flutist and the poet caressed her scars,
Their glances intersected often at the tulsi plant,
The courtyard, the porch and the neighboring pond.
His blood had boiled as he had clasped her papery wrists
One night, taking in the last drops of monsoon; he urged her
To take along her sleeping toddler, elope with him.
Her ornate vermilion has smudged, she looked in his eyes
In tarnished stupor, for one last time, and then, a bang
In her head, followed by vehement kicks and curses.
In the dark crevices of her womb, a sapling had breathed,
Rustled, moved and drifted, the dwindling promise
Of a tainted embrace.
“This kultaa, this dreadful promiscuous woman has brought
Shame to us, opened the door to hell. She’d better be
Off our sight”, they hissed to her at night.
One by one, they paraded in the room, their footsteps,
Dense, their sounds, menacingly cold. “We want the child
Ripped apart, finished by tomorrow, and this, our final word!”
The bathroom door latched the next morning, the fire
And the flames draped her like a quilt.
Red, withering, flickering, lapped up by the embers,
While her breath choked, for the last few fragmented moments,
She screamed to live, while the sapling inside her
Wiggled, fluttered, withered, burned.
For years, the neighborhood hummed this half-baked tragic tale,
She was a femme fatale, after all,
And the girl breathing inside her would have trailed after her,
If she had been alive, for sure.

Note: Based on real life stories, interspersed with some fictional elements, dedicated to the beautiful lives of women in India, nipped in the bud.

River Deep: The Pain and Dance

IMG_0317

Mother-daughter love. Image source: us-indiaartculturecenter.org

My special new year gift from ‘Cafe Dissensus’, a fictional narrative of a mother and her daughter, their patriarchal trappings and their shared wounds. As a woman, as a mother of my two girls, this will remain a piece extremely close to my heart. This is also my humble tribute to the battered women of India, suffering the evils of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and the evils of female infanticide. Thanks to Mosarrap Hossain Khan and Mary Ann Chacko for publishing this modest attempt of storytelling that I indulged in, and my special thanks to the members of ‘Rejected Stuff’, the wonderful poetry and writing group in Facebook for inspiring me to write this piece. I also dedicate this story to my two daughters Srobona and Sharanya, and to all of my friends who are blessed to have daughters. Let us celebrate and cherish them, always!

Sharing some excerpts from the short fictional piece with you here:

“A dash of turmeric, dollops of garam masala in the skillet. She cooks the crisp air of her desires that evaporates with the simmering, hot lentils. She scissors her desires into shreds, while a bird dances in her throat. She swallows its rebellious song along with hard chapatis and slaps. A mighty shout stiffens her, followed by cussing and thrusting, entering her in the dead hush of a cramped bedroom. Inside her, silence swells, grows out of her, seeking shelter in every cell of her body. The silence is the gulmohar tree of her long forsaken home, the rush of sunny faces, and the sweet soil of her childhood town.”

Copyright: Lopa Banerjee. December 2014

To read the full narrative/story, do visit:

http://cafedissensusblog.com/2014/12/30/river-deep-the-pain-and-dance/

 

To Ravaged Nymphs

Stop abusing women. Image Source: Therightimpact.com

Note for the readers:  This poem is born out of sheer anger keeping in mind the recent news of the rape and molestation rampage plaguing the women in Kolkata and West Bengal. I dedicate it to all my sisters in India and also worldwide, to their bruises and tears, while knowing that this is the only form of protest that I can do now.

Today I am angry, writhing, moaning.
My lips are full of venom and pain,
My breasts are heaving, malignant
With the burden of human sins.

Let me not sleep in silken slumber
In the vain masculinity of your arms.
Let me not spread my legs and
Drift ashore in the ocean of your lust.

For once, today, let me break free
Of your smothering kisses,
Your broken sentences, 
your overused bed sheets.

In the humming silence enacted
In this room of practiced orgasms,
A shrill cry tries to distract me,
Calls me, breaks through the door.
A cry that pushes through my cervix,
A cry that burns within
This cherished cloak of femininity.

A cry that reminds me
Of the indomitable ulcer of RAPE.
Every minute, one out of three of us
In every corner of the world
Is crushed between your legs,
Your masculinity, a curse,
A puked reality in our lives.

For once, today, my love
Let me untouched,
Let me light the candles
For my sisters in pain!

Copyright: Lopa Banerjee
September 18, 2014

Purveyors of Sin

So honored and delighted to have this poem published in the ‘Woman Inc Poetry Project’ today! Thank you, Pooja Garg Singh, editor of WIPP and my fellow writer friend, for this. Do visit Issue 1: Nov-Dec 2014 of the online magazine dedicated to the journey of woman through the art of poetry:

http://thewomanincpoetryproject.com/2014/11/02/issue-1-nov-dec-2014/

Image

Violence against woman. Photo Courtesy: free stock photo from Dreamstime.com

Purveyors of sin, let me close my eyes and drift off to my own shadows. 
The sun doesn’t have enough radiance for this crescent night to fade away.
You pounce on my blindfolded body, lusting over my flesh, 
Your filth, saliva and masculinity trickling down my skin, 
Skittering across my face. 
I am a maimed, deformed corpse, an unrecognizable mass 
That you trample away in the blinding traffic of the day.

In the dark, thick smoke of death, 
The world will come to mourn my impending doom, 
Snip me of my pride, screams and sobs ripping up the air. 
Whom will I tell that not my body, not my female organs, 
But my heart, my being, my conscience 
Has been dug into, cut open, beaten up?

I lay hapless and worn, the scars in my soul 
Infected with the germs of your horrendous crimes, 
Falling off the precipice of your lustful minds. 
Let my wordless mouth shut by your filthy, hurtful hands 
Plunge from this deep, dark abyss 
To a world of light and sanity, 
Where I can reach out and shout. 
I need to shout and give vent to my scars, 
I need to pour out like a rainbow in pain.
I need to dance again in the radiance of the sun, 
I need to bleed again, as the wounds seep into me.

Purveyors of sin, cut me open, and crush me again, 
In the deadly alleys of the night. 
I am but a dissected wound, lying on this cold bed of humanity, 
Pounce upon me again, in the ignorant darkness of your lust. 

P.S. The inspiration of this poem came from one of my longer personal essays about the experience of sexual abuse in India. The essay has been published in a blogazine named ‘Incredible Women of India’ and it is a pleasure to share with you the link below. Read on:

http://incrediblewomenofindia.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/to-ravaged-nymphs-a-journey-through-blood-bruises-and-tears/