girls are coming out of the woods - tishani doshi
Tishani Doshi’s poem is perhaps more appropriately read within a context of sexual violence, of the suppression of women’s voices through the negation of desire, of identity, even. The Guardian observes that she offer[s] an eloquent dissection of the body―its attributes, metaphors, deficiencies and contradictions―all delivered in chromatic, richly textured lines, in which the assured manipulation of rhythm and internal rhyme produces poems of remarkable balance and grace.”
Today, I’m framing this poem within a larger context of assertion by women. There was a report of how the NRC exercise is deeply flawed in terms of various faultlines - marginalising people, because of caste, class, religion and ethnicity. and gender. Just today, I read about how “Women of Assam are the worst affected due to faulty NRC implementation…”. The things is that “girls” have been “coming out of the woods” for long. They’ve been at the forefront of protests, political and social change, in every domain. A patriarchal and entitled gaze negates these voices, or repurposes them to belittle the contribution of women.
As the country burns (more than 60,000 people - mostly minorities - have been detained in UP alone, with sanction by the ruling BJP state government), one of the most beautiful placards in the sea of peaceful protests said “Women will destroy the Hindu Rashtra”.
This is the truth.
Images courtesy: https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/dec/17/assam-protests-many-women-want-caa-struck-down-others-expect-centre-will-listen-to-protest-2077387.html https://thewire.in/women/caa-nrc-protests-shaheen-bagh
transcript of full poem:
Girls are coming out of the woods
Girls are coming out of the woods, wrapped in cloaks and hoods, carrying iron bars and candles and a multitude of scars, collected on acres of premature grass and city buses, in temples and bars. Girls are coming out of the woods with panties tied around their lips, making such a noise, it’s impossible to hear. Is the world speaking too? Is it really asking, What does it mean to give someone a proper resting? Girls are coming out of the woods, lifting their broken legs high, leaking secrets from unfastened thighs, all the lies whispered by strangers and swimming coaches, and uncles, especially uncles, who said spreading would be light and easy, who put bullets in their chests and fed their pretty faces to fire, who sucked the mud clean off their ribs, and decorated their coffins with briar. Girls are coming out of the woods, clearing the ground to scatter their stories. Even those girls found naked in ditches and wells, those forgotten in neglected attics, and buried in river beds like sediments from a different century. They’ve crawled their way out from behind curtains of childhood, the silver-pink weight of their bodies pushing against water, against the sad, feathered tarnish of remembrance. Girls are coming out of the woods the way birds arrive at morning windows—pecking and humming, until all you can hear is the smash of their miniscule hearts against glass, the bright desperation of sound—bashing, disappearing. Girls are coming out of the woods. They’re coming. They’re coming.