I wrote this poem in July 2006 (obviously I was still nursing the baby). Here it is as a re-run.
I am the one
who suffers The Worst Pain of Your Life
to bring new life.
the one whose nipples are sucked to
the one whose body–
ravaged by labour,
hemorrhoids, stretch marks — yet
whose body is on display and is not
permitted the luxury of cellulite.
The one who’d better
get in shape. The one
who should breastfeed 2 years yet keep
breasts sophomoric, for
is a religious duty too.
The one who can’t
sleep, eat or rest.
Or read or pray.
The one who does not have
the time to work, who does not have
the freedom NOT to work.
Who got rights 1400 years ago
but cannot own a penny, for what
wife/mother would own/spend for herself?
They give me rights but take away
the right to use them when I want.
I can do this and this and this.
And then say, it’s unfeminine
to say I, me, I want, I need.
They say, how great is your glory, woman,
that you spoke out to the Messenger,
that you corrected Umar. Then
Shaikh X must be obeyed
for surely he in his piety
knows best the fiqh of labour pains.
one who can neither nurse
in public, nor feed formula
without public chastisement.
who must know EVERYTHING about
the baby, the one whose needs
to be forgotten, the one
who never can lose it, the one
And if I’m gone for an hour,
will hunt me like a hungry wolf.
a splitting headache, namaz to pray,
no meal in 15 hours, a child
fussing to be fed
fussing again to poop
fussing to be cleaned and bathed
and fussing to go to sleep again.
Sometimes it feels
like the universe is wound up so
I can never rest and breathe awhile.
Single, life was hard; married, life’s a trial; motherhood, a struggle all over again.
Yeah, motherhood is beautiful
with unending reserves of health.
Ah and that utopian system whereby
in-laws get to claim your child
and you get to be nanny/maid.
One day baby will grow up to see
mummy is the doormat, mummy’s needs
And then if something
the father gets
daddy can barely put the child to bed?
I’m the one with the lovely task
of nurturing bodies
by cooking food,
the endless labour
of cleanliness, of making home
a place of rest,—
And all the while “I do not work.”
And then they say,
he must not work beyond 5pm –
he must not lose sleep or meals — and yet
you are too frail to be president.
And then I am the one with jannah
at my feet
yet my jannah
has separate doors beside the trash.
When I approach the sacred, I am
told I cannot menstruate
told I cannot wear this or that
told I cannot say no to sex
told I cannot not marry, told
I cannot not wash clothes and plates
cannot divorce without penalty
Cannot say for God’s sake I’m tired.
say for once and all
you know what
for all your
apologetics, for all your fancy theory,
this world, this world
this world of yours
just does not work
for me that well.