Sunday 15 August 2021

Simreen Siraj, Poetry 2021 First Prize


Growing up I thought that people were born with their heads cocked,

Because that's how they’ve always looked at me.

They never failed to offer unsolicited advice. 

Boxes: Check one, Check other.

People don’t know,

They don't furrow between the layers like I do.

They don’t switch and twitch,

And actively make the decisions of which.

Which part of me belongs today?

Which aspect of my personality will it fend the least and blend the most? 

And work and succeed,

And bury the lead like a switchboard of traits that decide my fate. 

And I'm always an imposter!

Always lost, Always asking for instructions.

And people point my way like a scarecrow;

Like tornados, blowing me whichever way the wind blows, 


Well, Dorothy doesn’t want to play today.

She’s preparing for the JEE’s, just the Scantron. 

The box is empty, and glaring and daring me to choose one. Well, I'm an expert at boxes.

My whole life can be fit inside it,

And I’ve got it down to a science.

I can pack my entire identity in under an hour.

Because where there’s roots, there is power.

But I'm all topsoil. 

My blood runs like water and oil,

Refusing to stick.

Mom’s old books, read in secret nooks.

That camera, that locks all my memories in a flash,

Saved for when my recollection doesn't last.

All fit in a box ready to be carried from door to door.

But that’s not the kind of box people ever ask for.

So many lines in the sand, so many dos and don’ts.

I see both worlds so clearly,

And I skip and jump and run and fall between, never seen.

I belong in the spaces between.

Check all that may apply.

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