Three Poems

Shubham Shree

My Boyfriend
(An essay proposed for the Grade Six Moral Education Curriculum)

My boyfriend is a two-legged boy human
He has two hands, two feet, and one tail
(Note—I’m the only one who can see his tail)
My boyfriend’s name is Honey
At home, he’s Babloo, on his notebooks, Umashankar
His name is also Baby, Sweetie-pie, and Darling
I call my boyfriend Babu
Babu also calls me Babu
Babu has dandruff in his hair
Babu crunches when he eats
Babu slurps when he drinks
When he’s annoyed he packs a 440 volt punch
He has vaccine scars on his arms, twin half-lemons
If you poke them he screams
My Babu also cries
in a hiccupy sort of way
And he laughs with his eyes closed
He loooves salty food
When he sleeps, he snores from his nose and mouth
I am a good girlfriend
I swat away the flies trying to sneak into his mouth
I even smacked a mosquito on his belly
I always start laughing when I see him
He has very nice cheeks
If you stretch them out they get five centimeters bigger
He gave me a teddy bear named Kitty
We are the world’s best couple
Our anniversary is the 15th of May
Please congratulate us

*What we learn from my boyfriend
Is that you should smack mosquitos on your boyfriend’s belly
And swat flies away from his mouth

My Hostel Cleaner Has Refused to Throw Away Sanitary Napkins

It’s nothing new
There’s a long tradition
of hating menstruation
Within this Lakshman Rekha
of ‘impurity’—
this invisible border—
half the population is imprisoned
So often
those mysterious sanitary napkin ads
make us behave strangely . . .

They’re bought and sold
with awkward bashful smiles
And after use
they become
the world’s most hated objects
Not just the sanitary napkins
their sisters-in-utility as well
Old rags
End of sari
Scrap of dupatta

When they lie along the road
Boys mock
Girls blush

These cast-off friends of ours
destined not even for the trashcan
in a home
cursed are they
exiled far from all eyes

If they ever come into view
They’re stared at so
An instrument for measuring
the depth of those stares
has yet to be invented

Their crime perhaps is
to quietly soak up
the womb’s fruit—now rotted

Or maybe it is that
in praise of menstruation
our ancestors wrote no verse
as they did in praise of semen

I know this poem is really weak—
just like a menstruating woman
but what to do

What I don’t understand is
underwear holding semen
finds a special place on the clothesline
It’s ‘pure’ the moment it’s washed

What’s thrown in some
anonymous corner
is the clothing wet with blood
that emerged from some vagina
with utmost pain and anguish

My hostel cleaner has refused
to dispose of sanitary napkins

There’s an intellectual dispute afoot
Are they better wrapped in newspaper?
Covered up so nothing shows?

They should be disposed of neatly
in the trash
They shouldn’t be left
uncovered here and there

Who knows why
somehow I just can’t hear
that cleaner’s refusal

Verses of semen praise
echo in my ears

Just for you, Simone


What have you done to me, Simone?
I was walking along
perfectly steady

on that path where

awaited me

What you did was wrong . . .
you shoved me right in the middle of the path
to be ‘used’
such a dirty word

Tell me, Simone, why’d you do a thing like that?


a word inside me

a thirst soars
I hear
a beautiful melody

If only I could write such a poem
after meeting you

All I’ve written instead
is the name ‘Simone’

all over the entire page


I know you
You’ll start out talking about Derrida

Suddenly Virginia will flash through your mind
as you quote Bertrand Russell

You’ll explain Vatsayayan
in an argument about quotas for women

A full dozen cigarettes will burn to ash
on the way to my freedom

Despite loathing your kind
I adore you

I know
the meaning of equality
is not employment, quotas, or power
It’s getting in bed
my living body

I know

you want a few intimate moments
in order to make your mark on being ‘truly modern’

After some ‘elite’ and ‘intellectual’ sex
when I will think

I am free
truly modern too . . .

I know
you’ll think of one little word



Do you know, Simone,

I often think
no, not think: want

to send
a few copies of The Second Sex

not to the women
who are updating their blogs

in a hurry for a meeting
wrapped up in debate

not to ‘thinking women’

No, to those

who sit

waiting for a groom to be bought for them

They’ve already claimed
a few years running
to be nineteen

I want

someday, when they’re embroidering
watching serials

to quietly hand over a copy

Since the pay hikes of the Sixth Pay Commission
boys have gotten expensive
Loans won’t cover the cost

Those women pray
sixteen Mondays

five Tuesdays seven Saturdays
without water without food

I want

them to read

instead of the tale of the Thursday Fast
you, your words

You know
I am afraid
I don’t know

they’ve spent
their time

embroidering flowers on saris

by then
at the age of thirty
if by chance the deal
has been sealed

bound in the marriage sutra
pretending to be a girl of twenty-one

if they begin to store their bangles
in the pages of The Second Sex

what then, Simone?

translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell