Walk gently here, careful how and where you step
For here, where girls discarded like candy wrappers,
Where female foetuses destroyed in the still of night
Wrapped in ragged shawls or torn scarves
Are left to be devoured by wild animals
In the jungle of survival,
Or drowned in rivers
Not fortunate enough to be rescued
Like Moses in the bulrushes.
I am she who
Born free in the land of the free
Speaks for them.
In that same country, in a hospital
‘New Hospital for Women,’
I opened my eyes to my first cry
As a ‘new woman.’
Later I would rename the hospital
‘Hospital for New Women.’
In my mind alone, of course,
Some things are prophetic, time makes those revelations.
A poet with a different philosophy
Entered the room
Listened to my first breaths
Cradled me in his arms
Breathed a name on me
Speaking it quietly, almost a whisper
Yet, loud enough for all to hear.
Mother was deaf to my cries,
She had hemorrhaged badly,
Father rejoiced at the birth
Of a girl, his girl
A daughter, born in the land of the free.
He believed his daughter was a gift from his God
She would be named *Kavita, symbolically.
His joy would shower poems on her
While others with girl-children
Knit their brows, puzzled.
Is he crazy, a little touched in the head?
Maybe his poetry made a fool out of him.
What shall I protest?
A girl wanted in a country
Where girls are unwanted?
He wanted me, and took me home
A girl, his daughter, his first-born.
Indian sweets were distributed
Neighbors raised their eyebrows
Surprised, but with silent voices.
‘Light-skinned, and hair of golden curls
At least she will not have much trouble
Finding a marriage partner,’ they said
‘We’ll have to check her height and cooking skills,’
My darker skinned friends taunted and teased
While Michael Jackson later sang
“It don’t matter if you’re black or white.’’
My aunts and grandmothers
Simply prayed I would be like Ruth and like Esther.
May all fathers be poets.
And all aunts and grandmothers pray prayers
For their girls to be women of faith and character
Loved for their hearts and minds
Not their colour.
I want to go home to this
Way of life, this kind of land.
*Kavita is Sanskrit for poem
(First published in the Kali Project)