The Pile and Other Poems

    By Namratha Vardharajan

    The Pile


    day one,
    you don’t fold
    that on handkerchief
    because you are tired of doing
    it all the time. And everyone you
    know, lets it slide. It’s a chore, it’s
    not gonna make a world of difference
    if it is in or out: just a wolf-whistling in
    your direction, or a brush past against you
    on the bus— a single sock can just be thrown
    away, maybe, even a few clothes could be folded
    later, tomorrow is another day. Dumping them at
    the back of the closet is always an option. It won’t be
    right in your face that way. The squeeze of one boob,
    a pinch, or one slap on the butt in a dark alley, could be
    buried under there— behind the stack of laundered relationships,
    well-ironed memories, and closed antique almirahs. you let it pile…
    A casual uninvited hand on the waist here, a dress draping the chair
    there, you let it pile…and when the coat stand can no longer bear its
    own weight, you out the uncle who Your family swept under the sofa in
    the living room and it backfires honour in your direction. So, you let it pile.
    Now, you sit alone, in a closed room, binging on ice-cream, wearing sweat
    pants with chilly stains on them, cause they are relatively clean. you let it pile,
    and it piles and piles till there are mountains of mouths stuffed with all the world’s
    single socks (used and unwashed), even a teacher dumps his laundry on your
    bed, under the covers, in your head, And, now the stuffing in your mouth, down
    your throat, is the longest, most colourful string of magician scarves that everyone
    claps for, shoved in with a crowbar, by big hands, bigger, till it is in your oesophagus,
    (and do they swim in your intestines yet? ) and when you try to scream (the same old
    story), in this ocean of hashtags, you are just one news article, that they’ll scroll over.

    Beautiful Violence/Violent Beauty

    He pings her, “Date tonight?”

    She starts getting ready immediately
    because she needs a long time to get ready,
    though she has been getting ready for this moment for years.

    In past lives, she wore brass rings around her neck
    and bound her feet, becoming beauty.

    For more than 20 years, she has been bleaching her skin,
    letting it percolate her pores to flow into her bloodstream,
    trying to turn blood white, becoming white.

    For more than 15 years, she has been starving herself,
    to stay thin, bone and skin, reducing hips, forgetting
    the purpose of wide hips, groping for thigh-gap,
    forcing herself to throw up food, becoming anaemic.

    For more than 10 years, she has been
    noosing a hair on her upper-lip with a spit-wet thread yanking it off its roots, then repeating for each hair, waxing eyebrows, legs, hands, stomach, back, subjecting her bikini area to a laser, becoming frog.

    Five years back, she had breast implants, went under the knife, plumped up her lips, becoming barbie.

    Today, she shampoos her hair with parabens, clogs her pores with phthalates, conceals her flaws with traces of asbestos, shadows her eye with coal tar, polishes her nails with formaldehyde, and colours her lips with lead, becoming beautiful.

    And, when she meets him, in her figure-hugging red dress, she asks him hesitantly, “Do I look alright?”

    Chronic, yet we resist

    Diagnosis: Undetermined, everything divided by zero
    Pain index: a 9 out of 10

    2012: Men gang rape and murder in a moving bus in Delhi.

    Nights and sleep do not mix. 200 kg weight on chest, air sucked out. pain: constant, sharp now, then dull, then long, then short, then here, then everywhere like a sharp small stone buzzing around inside your eye. But, no one gets it.

    They say you can’t clap with one hand, girls wear jeans, girls smile.

    Prescription: therapy, an array of pills of shapes and sizes

    #metoo is a spark in a concrete forest Women march and some men march too

    A breath in: one two three four
    A medicine that doesn’t make you retch
    A therapy session
    A smile
    A breath out: one two three four five six
    An ant of hope crawls up the spine.

    One by one, people tell their stories Some listen My friend tells me it was her father I write a poem on the need for kindness

    The symptoms subside
    One day, the sun comes in through the window
    instead of going back out

    Spring is here. So, I write a poem on the unattractive flowers on the mango tree which will soon morph into manna for mortals.

    Can you get used to living with pain,
    numb yourself a little, cause life still happens?

    A man abuses and murders a 7-year-old girl while across the globe a teacher opens fire on her own students. I don’t click on headlines.

    Flare up. Inflammation. Migraine.
    Can’t walk, eat, sit, sleep, write. A 10 out of 10.

    Four held on the charge of raping 19-year-old in moving car in Bengaluru.

    Hold on to something soft and strong all night,
    and wake up in the morning. Breath. Stand. Move.

    We walk into the streets in the dark. This time I write this poem on the persistence of resistance

    Namratha Varadharajan writes to explore human emotions and our connection with nature while trying to chip at prejudices that plague us, one syllable at a time. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Briefly Zine, The Yearbook of Indian Poetry 2021, Muse India, Borderless, The Kali Project, The Gulmohar Quarterly, and The Alipore Post, among others. She writes at

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