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One, the quantum of bloodstains 

An average woman cleans over a lifetime; 

Off gathered white bloomers and pleated school skirts, 

Tucked in white shirts, and school bus, 

And hard wooden benches, 

And bedsheets, blankets, a pillow, 

Over which an unfortunate leg has been thrown, 

Mid sleep and the furtive washing, 

In a guest bedroom, 

A wedding hall bathroom, a funeral;

I remember, I know, still, 

The still warm fabric, as if alive, 

And soap, blessed running water, 

And always, the scrubbing, scrubbing, 

The draining, the blood, quick whirlpools, the sickly sweet smell, 

The loneliness of it, the quiet horror, when you’re only little.

Two, the quantum of things 

An average woman puts a knife through,

Tender snow peas, soft boiled eggs, fleshy courgettes, cucumbers,

A hard pomegranate, bursting open, 

Crimson splatters on a cheek, 

A pale wrist to wipe it off, 

And meats, yielding, soft, pink, 

The sawing through bone, 

The sharpest knife, deboning, precise, 

The collateral – innards, waste, animal blood,

Ligament, joints, tendons, 

Or scales, multitudes, little glassy wings,

Scrape, watch them fly off the skin, 

Rainbow dust in a kitchen sink, 

Chop, off with the head, 

A fish eye stares at the fan, 

Mounds of garlic, ginger, onions, 

Tomatoes, ceiling high, over a lifetime, 

Always the knife, 

Ready, handy, swift.

Now place the second thing— 

The ease with the knife next to the first thing—

A lifetime’s ease washing bloodstains, 

And marvel, at an average woman’s, 

Shall we say, transferable skills, 

And marvel too, at her restraint 

In a world, run, so poorly, on average by average men.

Nashrah Tanvir writes poems about mental health, feminism, and Islam. Her poems have previously appeared in The Hindustan Times, Magic Pot, The Teenagers Today, The Radiant, and AZE Journal.

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