Two Poems

By Alka Balain

1. The Wardrobe Talk

A shorts, a dress, a burqa, sportswear and a salwar suit
closet for a sartorial meet.

They had transcended cultures to tackle the infringement
of the right to wear — an imposed code of dress policing.

Shorts: The long legs I reveal in a westernised world,
a source of ogle and piercing words.
Powerfully worn on a global stage; a leotard or a unitard,
not a cape for your baser instincts.

The cropped top and the exposed midriff, not an open invite
the closed tunnel of long sleeves, echoes with whistles
the cleavage scarves flutter in the catcalls breeze
the dupatta, not a signet of what lies in me
et tu burqa, not an inch of error, yet an eve tease victim.

Be it liberal or conservative; be it the West or the Mideast
or peninsular Asia, we feel the eyes hovering all over us:
we hear the profanities cast: we share a similar story,
scripted by the self-assumed custodians of our bodies.

My body, my right, my comfort,
No one can dictate what I choose — to wear.
No right you own to police the outer garment
when your spirit garment is tainted.

Humanity breaking the uncharted frontiers of outer space,
Yet, your unascended self, hovers around a Georgia O’Keeffe.
If my attire invites impropriety, why not meld all and
sew a chagowr1 of fig leaves announcing your ignoble urges.

1 Hebrew word for apron

The recent controversy about the dress code for gymnastics and beach volleyball at Olympics 2021 where empowered women standing on par with men were questioned for their freedom to wear comfortable clothing birthed this piece of writing. Sexualization of athletes in sports is common. Even in countries where the dress code is restrictive, women face sexual abuse, even if they adhere to the dress code enforced by the ones who believe themselves to be the moral sentinels of society.

2. I Can’t Breathe

The only person he calls out for help,
As he believed like always,
She will be able to help,
Not realising in the final moments,
Maybe he saw her,
As she was there to ease his travel elsewhere.

The light he left, a beacon of impending change,
A change of racial and economic inequalities,
That has been simmering for years under the layers.
Sometimes latent, sometimes brought fore by
an unfortunate happening waiting to unfold.

Frustration, pent up anger unites the world over.
Peaceful demonstrations and march for objectivity,
Unscrupulous elements also plunder amidst.
Hashtags to the cause that matters,
Crowd the Facebook, Twitter and Insta overnight,
The pause in the music and the dark screens,
Reflection of savage darkness within.
The very very* ones for the photo op,
Hiding in inner bunkers ensconced in fake safety.
But the voice of truth cannot be silenced anymore.

Justice to be served and perpetrators to be booked,
Revamp the faulty system skewed in favour of select,
So the laws are uniform irrespective of colour and
all stand equals to breathe the air freely in delight.

Will the racial pandemic go down in history
Or will it just be a passing chapter of 2020?
Will another George Floyd or Eric have to say the words,
I can’t breathe again!

• in context to 45th US president, Donald Trump

This poem was penned down last year as a homage to George Floyd and other unknown lives lost to racial injustices. Eventually, justice was served in the case of Floyd, but it is still a long road to equal treatment of all where no one is judged based on their colour, caste, creed or religion.

Alka Balain is in love with words and colours. She began to discover her passion at a late stage in life and is an open mic poet. The consciousness flowing in the words speaks to her. She loves to explore different dimensions of the metaphysical – spiritual world. Alka has received recognition from Asian Literary Society and her work has recently been published in an anthology. She is one of the shortlisted winners of the Poetry Festival of Singapore, Catharsis.

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