written by: Ipsita Banerjee
I give you this cloak in shades of grey
that sat on me when I was young.
Yes, it’s rough, hand-woven and stained,
a hand-me-down from my mother
who herself wore it lightly slung.
My father frowned when he saw me in that cloak
as he looked away, his eyes held a tear
but no one told me to discard it,
lovers pulled the knots real tight;
experience made me draw it near.
A cloak of words: “You must obey, you mustn’t shout,
wait for others, your own needs are banal
respect your elders; your aunts, your brothers
even that uncle that makes you squirm…
Hush, you must not mention it at all!”
“What was that you said? Speak softly, girl,
wait your turn, don’t sit with your knees askew
you’re sending the wrong signal,
why do the men stare? Don’t look at them,
I’ll never make a lady out of you!”
Look at the cloak carefully, it once housed my soul
but could not keep me safe.
It will not protect you either,
but you need to know every weave
before you know where it chafes.
I want you to rip the cloak apart,
tear off every seam and stitch
make a pile of kindling and light a fire
and stand up to every one
who tells you are asking for it.
Yet, treat the world gently,
for not all souls are mildewed
teach your sons as you teach your daughters
lest you forget you are not puppets
no one should dare make ‘ladies’ out of you!