THE TALE OF AN EMIR
She sank in the ground, the valorous emir
For she had just fought a war
Victor or no, still stands unclear
Oblivious to pain, that came in galore
Her thatched hut dripped just like her
Water or blood, no difference at all
Cigar burnt hands, vision a blur
Her back cut by leather, stinking of alcohol
The middle of her legs, as she bathed
Bled an entire river, her blood soaked clothes
a daily chore and yet her heart unscathed
bore an old armour, the same shade of primrose
The war, to be fought every month
You can call it her own crusade
Stretched for days as outside he galumphed
Her supposed better half, who often tore her brocade
The warrior who had eternal strength
Felt herself sinking to the ground, yet again
For death cap mushrooms grew at length
in the forest between her legs, nurtured by a monthly rain
She sufficed without artillery for a time so long
For he would spend the gold on his cigars
Weakened a little, nevertheless headstrong
She would return victorious, to be greeted with deeper scars
Brave emir, your gallantry I bow down to
You battled with all your might
Your dilapidated hut, now scared with red hue
Narrates your tale, filled with pride.
– Anshika Bhatnagar
THAT DREADED RED STAIN
It was only third period,
still I wondered
how much longer I would
have to wait for recess.
It was Math class,
and the teacher was calling us
one by one to answer
problems on the blackboard.
I had my fingers crossed for not to be called,
and to my delight I wasn’t.
My friend next to me was,
she wasn’t too upset.
She liked Math you see.
I didn’t pay much attention;
I only did when another girl pulled my arm
to whisper in my ear –
“Her skirt! Can’t you see?!?
There is a red stain!”
I looked up and every time she shifted
to finish the next part of the equation,
The pleats of her skirt wavered,
to reveal the scarlet red stain,
Tiny and unseeming, yet,
making a bold impression on
anybody who caught sight of it.
The girl and I deliberated whether to call out to her,
to call her back to sit,
But that would only alarm her
of something she knew nothing of.
And maybe even, alert our classmates,
that something was up.
We watched wide eyed,
following her every move
as she finished the problem
and walked back toward us.
She looked at us questioningly,
at why our faces held the expressions they did.
We let her get seated,
then pulled her in a huddle to let her know,
Of the dreaded red stain on her skirt.
I still look back and think to that,
Wondering why to
a bunch of 7th grader girls,
A little blood was the scariest thing,
the most embarrassing incident.
I remember how we wondered
if someone other than us had seen the stain and
we tried to assure her no one was really paying.
A few years later,
I was boarding a flight at the Airport,
And I happened to notice
a little scarlet stain on her jean skirt,
I looked around embarrassed,
then tapped on her shoulder, and,
For what I felt to be my duty,
told her of the dreaded red stain.
She looked back and smiled, “I know.”
She turned back and handed over her passport
and ticket to the man at the counter.
They both wore the stain like a Scarlet A,
Hester Prynne’s in their own right.
The first, feeling shameful and self-conscious
And the second bearing her’s proud.
“GIVE ME BLOOD AND I’LL GIVE YOU FREEDOM”
I heard it all around me
On television, radios and stories
The songs of our valorous heroes
Who bled on the battlefield of life and death
I heard it all around me
In corridors and canteens
While the young men practised
Their speeches and rallies
To fight those invaders
Who stole our liberty
And cut our wings and throats
For their sanity.
These voices moved me
It drove me and inspired me
So I painted them a blood wall
That I bled every moon
But they seemed so offended
That they drank the life out of me
For I dared to ask for my own liberty.
They thrashed me and cut me
They corrupted my frame
With the blades of their tongue
And the hands of their words
For I dared to give the red that flowed through my womb and not my wounds.
I ask you today
What did I do wrong
I did what they asked
And they rewarded me with blue and black.
I learnt my lesson
Saw the face of reality
Those liars and cheats who drove me to insanity
“I gave them blood but they didn’t give me freedom”