I sprawled on the floor, was asked to sit properly,
beginning of shame in my being.
A boy I didn’t know whispered foulness in my ears
on the playground. I made sure my loose shirts
kept my chest as flat as it felt
in those seconds of frozen air.
Middle-aged bicycleman airkissed me,
I pedaled hard. At thirteen I learnt the roads
do not carry my weight
but weigh me down.
How many things must be rotten in our Denmark?
In Taekwondo class I stretched my legs
on both sides till they hurt, till much after the hurt.
Two girls, their feet against mine, silently promising me
I won’t relent. That winter, the flame
of pride in my thighs kept me warm.
I named parts of my body
(that asked why I never spoke to them)
to tell wide-eyed men of the exact violations they committed.
I discovered my tongue and language could be allies if they spent
enough time together.
Curious, I returned the gaze foisted upon me,
took my time to take in this bundle of nerves turned to jelly.
My eyes were street dogs who could fight on half-empty
stomachs, every day pulled into games others played, refusing
to be tamed.
My body says it wishes to unlearn the fear of what could be done
to it, to show me everything it can do.
A version of this work was first published in Tuck Magazine.
Ankita Anand’s writing has travelled through India, Pakistan, Singapore, Ireland, South Africa, Canada, the US and the UK. She also facilitates writing workshops. An archive of her publications can be found here: anandankita.blogspot.in
Photograph by Saad Akhtar.