This is India and Good Girls Do As We Say

The hair tie wound around my finger
Smells of stale biscuit, dried sweat,
Tears, and aged musty fibre;
And I cradle a pair of scissors, its blade
Reflecting the harsh yellow light of
The bathroom bulb above my head.

I listen; How old is she?
My left shoulder feels the shadow of goosebumps,
The hair standing on end, charged
With dreadful anticipation of what is to be.
She is a responsibility, with the family
Anxious to barter her to another.

Oh, she loves to sing and write, they boast.
She has long vantablack locks, is quite fit.
is 5 feet 7 inches of beauty and grace;
You really will love her hair, you know?
She is very talented, just graduated,
and holds a day job. Good income, they say;
And she would be perfect for your family.

But I don’t want to go to another family;
I don’t want to be married to another.
I want to dream, and think, and be free,
the girl in the mirror says to me.
It is for your own good, they sweetly reply;
You’re perfectly trapped; you must obey;
This is India, and good girls do as we say.

My finger-tip pales and whitens,
As the hair tie around my pinkie tightens
Like a noose, like a chain, like a wedding ring.
And I taste perfect unfreedom like bile
Rising in my throat, my stomach turning,
the bright bulb blinding my smarting eye,
As I grip the wash basin till my knuckles turn white.

It is for your own good, my gentle girl —
Echoes the voice of the household
As they play with my hair, smiling sweetly.

Sharon Jacob