Wednesday, 10 October 2018


Girls Who Refuse to Die

by Nalini Priyadarshni


It’s not about those who get flushed out surreptitiously
as a scarlet blob between thighs 
Neither is it about those who are scraped out of wombs
With rusty tools of quacks in back alley 
Nor those who are buried alive 
Or abandoned on dumpsters to be eaten by wild dogs
It’s about those who make it into the world amidst 
middle class moral compunctions 
no less despised or resented 

Guilt is not only for evildoers
It’s also the gift of our collective consciousness to the girls
who turn a deaf ear to laments that follow their birth
and refuse to die.
It finds roots in the softest hearts and feeds on affection
for disgruntled progenitrix, unfair tutelage
sucking out the last dregs of self-love 
until they are housebroken to be good girls
for the rest of their lives

A good girl is the one who can never do enough 
or be enough to assuage the trauma she caused
by simply being born 
So she carries a thousand deaths beneath her tongue
and swallows one every time she has to choose
between being happy and being good
yet falls short every single time 

It’s not about those missing girls
who turned into statistics in census registers
It’s about those who lead invisible lives
persona non grata in homes they dare not call their own
stuck within the gilded frames of happy family portraits
entirely dispensable if the honour of the clan so demands
sacrificial lambs to pander to the fragile male egos 
of those who think they own them

It’s not about those voiceless victims of patrimony
who were throttled before they could utter a sound
It’s about those who are treated as trophies  
wrapped in silks, dripping with diamonds
They do just fine as long as they know
when to smile coyly and when to retreat into shadows
God forbid if they ever acquire
a mind of their own or sprout a tongue

It’s about those who break through the cracks of concrete
like daisies on a busy sidewalk and court whirlwinds
the girls who refuse to die

Some turn into fire-spitters even if it singes their own feathers

Some turn into rainbows keepers refusing to be confined
within drab walls of conventions

Some turn into ocean cuddlers, spreading their arms wide
to embrace their destiny and all those who share it

Some turn into sword swallowers, gutting the barbed jibes 
in the pit of their stomach

Some turn into fragrance detectors, sniffing out 
the sore hearts to heal them as they heal themselves

Some turn into fake family fishers, smiling and posing 
For gilded frames as their innards melt 
Some turn into pecan pickers, harvesting, shelling, husking
and ginning their lives to make some sense of it

Some turn into silver unicorns, chasing elusive 
cotton candy clouds into the twilight of life

Some turn into everyday goddesses, balancing domesticity
with dream catchers and hang on to the silver lining

They survive, somehow, the girls who refuse to die
to maintain the semblance of normalcy 
So that we continue to take pride in the heritage
that persecutes them 
systematically


* * * * *

Author's note: "I belong to Punjab, India where the sex ration is 847 women per 1000 men. But this poem is not about those missing girls. It is about those who survive and become part of the patriarchal set up."  

Nalini Priyadarshni has been writing poetry and other stuff for almost a decade and has been published worldwide in literary magazines and journals. Her poems have been widely anthologized and collected in Doppelganger in My House and Lines Across Oceans, which she co-authored with the late D. Russel Micnhimer.  Her recent publications include Better Than Starbucks, Different Truths, Duane’s PoeTree, The Ugly Writers, Counter Currents and more.