by Gayatri Lakhiani Chawla

Who does my body belong to?
I should think it belongs to me
Unlike my eccentric lover
who wants to possess it,
He says ‘you are mine’
like I am a piece of land or a herd of goats
that graze the Alpine pastures of Kashmir.

The night after the hurricane
often my body shivers feels like a refugee
crouching in the bushes with a kukri in my hand
guarded and armed,
awareness creeps into my skin
when a pair of eyes look at my unrobed flesh
piercing through and through,
at that moment I hate
I hate with my gut-wrenching mouth that curses the evil,
Come sunset I will forget everything
and tame my mind to cut off that feeling.

Sometimes my body is a bric-a-brac of fallopian tubes
moving ahead like a traveler with a florescent lantern
the womb, a cocoon
safe, nurturing for the next life,
never believed I would give birth
to another tiny body,
until I held her,
how she slept in the warm comfort of my body
did she know she was her own body now,
do they ever.

My body belongs to me and me alone,
Just like
the soft velvety peach belongs to my mouth,
the magenta nail varnish belongs to my toe nails,
the sweet words of love to my ears,
the dark enchanting kohl to my wide eyes.
Look at me if you please but mind the gap
lest I swing my double-edged sword.

-Gayatri Lakhiani Chawla
‘Body’ is from the book ‘The Empress’

Gayatri Lakhiani Chawla is an award-winning poet, translator and French teacher from Mumbai. Her poems have been published in International anthologies and journals such as ‘The American Poetry Anthology’,‘ The Indian P.E.N.’, ‘Modern Poetry Translation’, ‘Setu’, ‘The Hans India’ , ‘The Bombay Review’, ‘Narrow Road’ , ‘Madras Courier’ and ‘Open Road Review’. Her poems are featured in the anthology ‘Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians’ published by Sahitya Akademi, Red River Book of Haibun, ‘Hibiscus’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’. Her poem won a Commendation Prize at ‘The All India Poetry Competition'(India). She was a featured writer for Wordweavers Poetry Contest 2015/16. Her poem is featured as Poetry in Pamphlet by Verse of Silence. She is the author of two poetry collections, ‘Invisible Eye’ and ‘The Empress’. ‘Invisible Eye’ was long listed for Cochin Lit Fest Poetry Prize 2018. ‘The Empress’ was Winner –II of the 2018 US National Poetry Contest by Ræd Leaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts. ‘The Empress’ won the Write Publish Publicize Contest at the Bengaluru Poetry Festival 2019. Her poem won a special mention award in the Architectural Poetry Annual Competition by Architectural Journalism and Criticism.

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