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Creative Works Poetry

Semantics: Read, watch this poem

SEASON 1, EPISODE 5: This piece titled ‘Semantics’ by Sree Sen has been published by Ireland-based Poetry Ireland Review issue #131 in August, 2020. YouTube Link here.

‘Semantics’

leaving my hometown, i was told,
i’d be a second-class citizen
in a first-world country
as if being a brown girl
in a brown country
was any different

as if i wasn’t scared all the time
my character attached to my neckline

as if i wasn’t familiar with violence
at home, on streets, inside my head
groped on the staircase
by arthritic fingers
of friend’s grandfather
who walked us every morning
to the stop for our school bus
my father had left, mother catatonic
my breasts were starting to show

holding out my elbows in crowded places
to deter horny men with hard palms
trying to grab me
practised speed-fondling
of breasts locked tight enough to squeeze
the breath from my shamefully ample chest
bulging waists grinding against me
in crowded trains, buses, metro
my gender in the wrong place

general compartment
is for brown men
designated metal boxes
are for brown women

in my homeland,
pale skin is entitled to bikinis & neon bras
femur of burnt clay
uncovered
is an invitation
in courts of gossip & panchayati raj


i miss the flames of krishnachura
setting ablaze my window
in a home not my own
here, cherry blossoms are
clouds trapped by branches
dreaming of the sky

hard lines of guilt, softening
i’m free to chop off my hair
grown long for men
in the territory of humid scalps
sometimes, i still cower

brown country is for brown men
& a visa for me

©Sree Sen

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