Shades of woman
She tells me I look like sex tonight. Really, you do, can’t you see it? And when I look down I do see; I see my breasts plump and hairless flung out of my sex dress like sleeping strays. I know this body is woman. This body is power; awake, alive. Paint me red and call me the devil. Let my curves shape waves to ricochet off your eyeballs. Give me permission, or don’t. What does it matter? Listen to every word; this shade of lipstick is perfect.
This shade of woman is perfect; delicious, Pakistani mango sweet. Eat me ripe. Lick lips, smack teeth, kisses, swallow, spit. They say I’m as guilty as the days are long. All my seventy billion shades of red cannot save me, heal me, from the sickness of being woman.
Instruction manual on giving birth
Make sure the father is in the room.
Don’t tell your parents –
you’re probably not married yet.
I’ve heard you can ask for all the drugs you like.
Remember to smile when the midwife –
who is pretty and blonde and wears expensive rimless glasses –
hands you your child.
Remember the child is yours.
Remember to thank Allah.
And apologise at the same time.
Man of the house
Aunty tells me they used to woman by shoving pencils down the sides of sofas, passing notes because He wouldn’t let them talk. I watch Him now and He stills sits in the same corner of the room, still watching, through older eyes, still conducting silence in this room, all these years later as me and my siblings sit twiddling our thumbs in front of Him on Eid day.
Nafeesa Hamid is a British Pakistani poet and playwright based in Birmingham. She has featured at Outspoken (London), Poetry is Dead Good (Nottingham), Find the Right Words (Leicester) and Hit The Ode (Birmingham). Nafeesa has also performed at Cheltenham and Manchester Literature Festivals as part of The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, a recent (2017) anthology publication by Saqi Books, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. Besharam, published on Sep 20 20218 by Verve Poetry Press, is her first collection. Twitter @NafeesaHamid