Male Gaze

men close my palms with pamphlets of desirability,
all of them begin with pursed lips;
all of them end with me shrinking.

i sit by the window and cajole myself with feminist poetry,
while i let them dress me up with needles;
i say intricate, they pronounce it delicate.

now i tiptoe in my skin, i shouldn’t make too much noise;
i’m allowed to scream, only if my head is buried into a pillow.
mother knowingly nods -
“women are born with pain built in”
we exchange a glance smeared with shared helplessness.

we look away, i think most women
refuse to acknowledge the enormity of their oppression;
just the way, trauma survivors forget, to survive.

its too painful to walk with that realization all day long,
men have a choice - to forget or to forgive,
for the rest of us, its survive or not.

i’m angry, i’m afraid its just sadness;
but sadness happens to me,
i decide to be angry, you see i’m tired of things happening to me.

for once, i want my screams to be mine
not induced with scars, the ones that men like picasso paint on my back;
spare me their “revolution”, a tale as old as time, men watching women;

meenal jhajharia