|“Small Circle” by Arti Sandhu|
I, of course, do not know if Kumari was really your name,
It became a custom in the Gulf to change the name of the servant upon arrival,
The mama says to you, “Your name is Maryam/Fatima/Kumari/Chandra,”
Even before she gives you your cotton apron,
The same apron that the previous Kumari used
before she ran away
and became free
crowded in a single room with ten others
watching their pictures on the walls
fading under the air conditioners.
They may talk to you in English
and give you your own room,
but they will dress you in a pink uniform,
For the concubine is no longer required to seduce.
Or they may talk to you in Arabic and the language of fingers,
That which depends on hand signs in some days,
or on slapping your cheeks in others.
You might have to help the son
discover his sexual desires,
Or even sacrifice
for the father’s bodily failures.
In both cases, do not run to the police station,
From there all fathers and sons come.
You must cut your hair regularly,
Mama might get angry one day
and claim your braid as a rope in her hand.
Write all the songs that you love in a notebook,
No forgotten songs can be found here.
Get angry, Kumari,
Hang yourself with the clothesline,
Use your knife outside the kitchen,
Teach the Mama and the Baba and the Bacha a lesson,
Let them create all those myths about your gods
who ask you in your dreams
for some Khaleeji blood
to feed the belly of history.
Run, Kumari, run
And steal everything you find;
A ghost gotta act like one.
[This poem was translated to English by Saqer Almarri.]