Maya Sharma Sriram – WE ICWP Prize ’20. WE, The Force Prize ’20

Transactions At Traffic Lights

Smooth cheeks, plump breasts
Rounded arms, invisible womb
And the juncture of my thighs
Rebuke me.

I look away from the mirror 
And remember the transactions 
at the traffic lights.
Painted face, sparkly earrings
shiny sari, sexy blouse
And jingling bangles on 
sinewy arms.

They don’t hide the scars, or the pain, 
the blame or the shame
Of acquired womanhood.
I brave the mirror again
I cannot see 
the sagging breasts, the wrinkled skin
the bleeding womb, the flabby thighs,
Or even what nestles between them-
the mirror’s on fire
I breathe deeply and catch 
the fragrance of The Primeval Woman.
Now, at traffic lights,
When there is a tinkle of glass
The windows slide down
Money exchanges hands
before the lights turn green.
That is how I give my thanks. 

Glass Prism Girls


Glass Prism Girls-
they live everywhere.
In magazines and movies, t .v. screens and billboards.
Fair –faced, smooth-skinned, long-legged, flat-stomached, perky- breasted, tight-tushed, thigh –gaped.
They twirl and reflect body–parts of perfection
in the light of the male gaze.
We pick up these prisms
Wrap them around our wrists
Tie them around our necks
Bind then around our arms
Like talismans.
We chant, 
As we twist and turn
Starve and puke,
Pluck and bleach,
“Fair-skin, flat stomach, thigh gap, thigh gap”
Like a mantra.

Till we squeeze ourselves and transform,
Like a reverse butterfly, into
Glass Prism Girls.
Glass Prism Girls-
Expel your carefully-held breath.
Shatter that prism
Get up, get out, stand tall.
Turn on the light of your own gaze.
See the beauty of 
The wrinkly hand, the hairy legs
The wobbly tummy, the bulgy thighs
 The blotchy skin and the gappy grin.

 Don’t look at the mirror, don’t climb the scale
They can’t hold your beauty.
 Listen then, to the music
Of the laughter in your soul.

And us?
Let us tear out our charms
Cast them into the fire
And dance to the joy
Of the leaping flames.

Maya Sharma Sriram is the author of the book, ‘Bitch Goddess for Dummies.’ She is the winner of the  Elle Fiction award. She was long listed for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her poem  was short listed for the All India Poetry competition. She is the co- founder of the Chennai Lockdown Literary Festival.