Poem by Shaoni Rakshit // Photograph by Marta Braggio
It was a beauty pageant in my head
where I was first in line instead,
only since I would be easier to push out,
and that the skirt of my dress would match
the river of blood flowing from my mouth.
The panel of judges are men on pedestals and they tell
the new girl in front that her shove was not as impressive
but never mind,
they know the next girl in line knew the protocol.
She also knew she should have two eyes at her back,
just beneath the shoulder blades,
so that she does not end up getting the sack:
like the time I was when
I did not let the flower that is your male ego bloom,
and I knew, in that
very moment, that your eyes were spelling doom
as they looked through
and shifted their gaze to someone who would.
But I am still bleeding
tributaries of blood from my throat:
just because I knew how to spell respect
does not mean that I cannot read heartbreak and that’s what he wrote
all over my face
until no one could see my eyes unless they took apart my skin
undoing it like lace.
I was his favourite model at his personal show,
but now I am last season, so he wants no more.
He has called me many a dirty word
but the F bomb was the one that hurt.
No, no, no, absolutely anything but a feminist –
there, I can even laugh at jokes blatantly sexist.
I realise I am not at the pageant anymore,
none of us should be anyway,
it’s only a game we like to see women play.
Why do we walk in lines when we can walk together,
men never had to walk ramps, don’t you remember?
I liked being in the front because I wanted
him to see my face –
I didn’t like it though,
when the blood in the mouth was my own.
I reject this ceremonial crown; I reject this very damned ladder
that the man props me up on, every rung being woman fodder.
I am still learning
to realise that my comrade is femininity
and not this ingrained patriarchy.[share]