Anguish burning behind skins
like flames behind colours of
see-through stone. Burning love,
exploding sparks of bush fires in
forlorn grasslands. Proud edifices of travertine
laid to desolate waste, utter ruin,
stripped to nakedness, still
dignified, untouched, tranquil.
They can set the spark
to burn my anguish, work
at trafficking every body part
fine tune rape into a performing art
strip me of every love, and each caress
they will not be able to undress
either my bodies or my souls.
I spin my own yards of fabric rolls -
sheer, translucent pleasure, and thick pile wool
blankets of independence, shaded tulle
in colours both frivolous and grave
hopeful and despairing, timid and brave.
Every thread a fine point weapon.
They can’t have me bared, or broken.
Rage burning in leaping tongues
of a saffron flameball. Like the young
sun shrugs off the restraining horizon,
somersaults into a wide blue freedom.
The slow burning of trust
quietly guarded small flames suddenly crushed
between callous fingers, wicks nipped
stand wisping smoke, still red tipped.
They can use their fingers, steel-cold, cruel
to nip my wicks, siphon away every fuel
that I have for happiness, pinch
off every source of joy, lay bare every inch
of flesh and bone, claw and snatch
at every covering. Still I’ll detach
from their grasp, no hand hold,
no firm grip on my bodies or souls.
I spin my own endless fabrics
in colours of alabaster and marble, jade and onyx.
In textures of silk and steel, of resolve and grief,
weaves of milky mercy, intricate loving motifs.
I spin my own immeasurable veil
the borders dark, the rest shimmering pale,
confident and free, the way it drapes
around my core and around its outer shapes.
I don’t wait for saviours, I call upon no prophets.
I am clothed in my own humanity, I cannot be stripped.
Draupadi is a character in the Indian epic Mahabharata, her husbands' enemies' attempt to publicly disrobe her is foiled by Krishna who answers her call for help. He makes her garment endless, and her attacker tires of trying to pull it off her. This event is one of the triggers leading into the climax of the Kurukshetra war.