Can you tell me
How I should feel?
You had laughed to hear me ask.
That first time you touched, that second time we kissed.
But I was unsmiling, questions in my eyes
And you unable to comprehend
Could only wonder at the demons in my past.
You were born in a different land, under the best of stars
I was born to joy suppressed, to questions, to unfulfilled hope.
You were given the best of things, the choicest piece, the fullest glass
I grew knowing I would have to share, that I was weak, needing a man’s care,
Can you tell me why it was that I was second class?
I was still a girl, when the change began
They said it meant I was now a woman
I wondered why it needed proving with blood.
When I had grown to think of being woman as my fate
What did blood do to stop the prying eyes on the street?
Would my blood now stop the seeking eyes and hands of men I meet?
I still remember being up on the roof high above it all
The teenage servant my uncles had
He was given the duty of watching their children play
He singled me out for one special game
Because you are so beautiful he would say.
I remember washing my face at the tap
To wash his spit off my skin
But other memories of the ugliness
Are seared into my mind, I dare not look too deep
Can you tell me how I should feel
Suddenly waking up from my sleep?
What should I say when you tease
Was this better than your first time
You seek to know how to please
How do I say I have never been first,
I have only stood by while things were being done.
Ruma Chakravarti was born in Ghana and schooled in India. After living in Africa, India and Papua New Guinea, she now calls Australia home. She has been blogging for six years, translating songs, poems and stories from her native Bengali language at the beginning. A year after she started three volumes of Ruma’s Tagore translations were published at the Kolkata Book Fair in 2013. Ruma has since been writing her own stuff and is currently working on what she hopes will be her first novel. Ruma credits her love of words to her schooling and her parents, but also to a wish to connect with people; something she missed out on as an only child growing up in remote parts of Africa. Personal experience has led Ruma to believe that everyone has a story to tell and that writers can help their readers feel linked to places.