Ashwini Bhasi

SOIL
 

“If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself,
and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things,

I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter
 to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family,
 I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
Attorney AP Singh in defense of those
 who gang raped and murdered
 Jyoti Singh.

A woman is the black earth of your fields—you shred         
          wildflowers and weeds, burn left over straw
to control pests and disease.

She is what you proudly fence off with bamboo sticks,                   
          where you let your crops bloom, where you may watch
the summer heat and rain

merge and flow into brown puddles that look as comforting
          as the lukewarm tea you sip silently from your stainless
steel cup. A woman is hard earth you meticulously

plow in clockwise circles with various clod sizes,
          carve out ridges, bring insides to the outside, and flood it
till it’s soft and ready for replanting again.

She is black earth that still remains in the rim
          of your hands after you washed them clean
at the end of a hard day’s work.        

Now you will dig into each fingernail,           
          and use other fingernails
to scrape her out.


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