‘You Are Whole’, Anshritha

Illustration © 2021 Dr. T. Eratopo


 [ Hands, © 2021 Dr. T. Eratopo ] You know the old saying
That a woman’s hair is her
Crown and glory, symbolizes
Her strength, fertility and virility?

Is it still a crowning glory
If damaged, falling, thinning
Naturally brunette once; now
Slight silvers among the brown
That appeared seven years ago
Multiplied when the candle is blown

No virility or fertility is here
Symbolic only of severe stress
Was the hair of a Disney princess
Lovely, luscious, lively, lustrous, liquid
Now it’s hacked away with garden clippers
No stars are at fault, the folly is in your follicles


Bulbous blobs—two
Big bumps on each side
Of your wide, tensed forehead
From when you fell on the ground
Or crashed your head against the table
Or from that one time you walked into a door

“They look like mini headlights”
Was what your big brother would say
Before he’d press his finger on your nose
Like it was a switch that ignited those headlights


Thick bushy brows
Raised in mock horror
Furrowed to create creases
On the bumpy, broad forehead

Overgrown, unshaped, unplucked
You cannot contain it, so you let it be
Why get trendy neatly groomed eyebrows
When everything else from the bed to your life
Is dense, wild, rowdy, messy, unruly, and disordered


Ever heard of this adage—
Eyes are a window to the soul
How much can we see of your soul
When the windows are dull, droopy, dead?

Large eyes, too large for that face
Purple puffy bags stacked under them
Orbited by rings of black circles of darkness
Sunken, gaunt, hollow, swollen, gaping, hardened
With such lifeless eyes, we’re scared to see your soul


Nose as red as a siren
Turns redder when you cry
A girl at school called it strange
Insisted that it is your worst feature

For over a month after that,
You squeeze your nose tightly
Hoping the pressure sharpens it
When you finally release your fingers
It inflates to a size of about half your head

You give up trying to reshape your nose
Instead, you get it pierced on the right side
As a piece of decoration for your faultiest feature
No longer want to distract from the ugly anymore now
You want to commemorate it, worship it, embrace it fully


That girl at school misspoke
This is easily your worst feature
A mouth crammed with words unsaid
Puffy and pale, with its corners strained
A hard straight line, your mouth never smiles

It stays silent, screams, smokes
Crooked large teeth, a lashing tongue
Red lips, too red—they look a lot like blood
Bruised, bleeding, bitten; they have learnt to bite


A blotted star embossed
Ink printed below the clavicle
You want to paint yourself more
There is too much ink, too little skin

Four holes pricked in each ear
Left: Two below your broken cartilage
Two holes right above the protruding tissue
Skin submerged in stains, scars, stabs, scabs


Trembling hands
Drop what they hold
Never do as they’re told
The shimmer gold of polish
Outgrown a fourth of every nail

Fractured both hands
When you fell down stairs
Took months and months for
You to be able to write one word
Since then, your poetry won’t rhyme
The trauma—every verse is a staircase

© 2021 Anshritha

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