Birthday Poem

The ones I gave birth to are ten today
The ones who were never meant to be
Impossible, they said, a miracle.
The ones who spent the first month of their lives in exile
Who took only the bottle, not the breast
They look like two rosebuds, she said.
The ones who stayed when he left
Who had to withstand his rage and fear of losing them
And so they lived in his and hers
Mine but also not mine
Always two, never one.
The ones who said, I missed mama at school today
And now say, please and thank you and I didn't mean it
The ones who are me but never me
Mine and theirs
Are ten today.

Srila Roy is a professor in sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where she teaches and researches gender and sexuality in the Global South. Her latest book is Changing the Subject: Feminist and Queer Politics in Neoliberal India.