Catabolic Woman by Arundhathi Subramaniam

We’re bound for the ocean 
and a largesse of sky, 
we’re not looking for the truth 
or living a lie. 
We’re coming apart, 
we’re going downhill, 
the fury’s almost done, 
we’ve had our fill. 
We’re passionate, ironic 
angelic, demonic, 
clairvoyant, rational 
wildly Indian, anti-national. 
We’re not trying to make our peace 
not itching for a fight, 
we don’t need your shade 
and we don’t need your light. 
We know charisma isn’t contagious 
and most rules are egregious. 
We’re catabolic women. 
We’ve known the refuge of human arms, 
the comfort of bathroom floors, 
we’ve stormed out of rooms, 
thrown open the doors. 
We’ve figured the tricks to turn rage 
into celebration,  
we know why the oldest god dances 
at every cremation. 
We’ve kissed in the rose garden, 
been the belles of the ball, 
hidden under bedcovers 
and we’ve stood tall.  
We’re not interested in camouflage 
or self-revelation, 
not looking for a bargain 
or an invitation.  
We’re capable of stillness 
even as we gallivant, 
capable of wisdom 
even as we rant.  
Look into our eyes, 
you’ll see we’re almost through. 
We can be kind but we’re not really     
thinking of you. 
We don’t remember names 
and we don’t do Sudoku. 
We’re losing EQ and IQ, 
forgetting to say please and thank you. 
We’re catabolic women 
We’ve never ticked the right boxes, 
never filled out the form, 
our dharma is tepid, 
our politics lukewarm. 
We’ve had enough of earnestness 
and indignation  
but still keep the faith 
in conversation. 
We’re wily Easterners enough  
to argue nirvana and bhakti, 
talk yin and yang, 
Shiva and Shakti.   
When we’re denied a visa 
we fall back on astral travel 
and when samsara gets intense 
we simply unravel. 
We’re unbuilding now, 
We’re caterwauling,  
           catabolic women.  

First Published in Love Without a Story, 2019.

Arundhathi Subramaniam is a poet who has recently won the Sahitya Akademi Award, 2020, for her book When God is the traveller (2014). She has authored a number of books and won multiple awards and fellowships. She has been part of a number of numerous anthologies and journals.

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