Sweet Jasmine and Other Poems

By Shikha Lamba

Sweet Jasmine

“India is home to the largest number of child brides in the world: 23 million child brides – a third of the global total.” UNICEF 2021

How many fourteen-year olds are offered like delicacies?
Pressed against desire they understand nothing of,
pressed against bodies that thrill themselves with the fresh
plucking, bodies that lie exhausted erasing virginity from girl.
How many are made to display themselves unwillingly
like vast open fields of golden crop,
legs rising like plateaus, elevated for the taking.
How many girls surrender because it is your duty to lie there and please,
because submission is the chaddar they must all wear along with sindoor.

Hardly an Appropriate Poem for the Lunar New Year

“11 Dead in Mass Shooting at Monterey Park Lunar New Year.” 23 January, 2023. Insider.com

Those of us who do not know grief intimately
cannot put their pens to paper to write about it.
As we stand as observers over others,
watching their gallery of despair,
we can never understand enough.
All we can do is bring ourselves to the edge, because
no sane person will jump over the cliff to embrace another.
We can only hold sympathy, such an inadequate word in such times,
offer our bodies in the invisible dance of mournfulness,
admit ourselves as temporary visitors in their purgatory.
Some observers might say, they are praying for some insight.
Asking the gods for a sneaky glance into what their
own personal bereavement might look like,
to better comprehend another’s.
As for me, let me be naïve enough to say this –
this is how I want grief to make its self-known to me –
Like a dark room with a dim night light and a revolving door to the world outside.
Like a transitory buzz of anguish fluttering close enough, never touching.
Like a soft hum against the grass of my skin,
echoing shallow and ever so delicately – so I remain intact inside.
Maybe my prayers for those in grief can be this naïve as well,
while their agony makes contact with every inch of their skin –
Let them remain intact, please let them remain intact inside.

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Shikha S. Lamba is a jewellery designer and poet living in Hong Kong. She is also the co-editor of an online magazine, Coffee and Conversations. Shikha has contributed poetry and articles for various publications in Hong Kong, US and India over the years. Passionate about raising awareness about women’s health and mental health issues through her writing, her poems often touch on themes of feminism and social injustice.

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