for brown girls who once considered themselves 

an erasure from BBC’s news article Nusrat Jahan Rafi:
Burned to Death for Reporting Sexual Harassment 

Nusrat, was 19, small studying of the hands
she said the headmaster repeatedly touched her 

things ran women in Bangladesh 
what made her different is,
she went to the abuse
she gave it a statement
her courage in death being set 

in the video Nusrat is visibly distressed
the policeman is heard calling the complaint “no big deal” 

Nusrat Jahan Rafi was small
came from a face of judgement
in person and online 

on 27 March, after she went to the police, they arrested the headmaster
things then got worse for Nusrat
people gathered in the streets demanding his release. 

blame peopled against Nusrat 

“i tried,” said Nusrat. 

statement took her to the roof of the school
saying one of her friends was being beaten up
when Nusrat reached
the rooftop pressured her to withdraw
when she refused, they set her on fire 

killers gave a statement before she died
holding her head down with BBC 

doctors found burns covering 80% of her body
fearing she survived, they unabled the ambulance 

she recorded a statement on her brother’s mobile
“the teacher touched me, i will fight this crime till my last breath” 

on 10 April, she died
thousands of people turned out for her funeral in Feni 

the following week, the complaint was transferred to another department
everything in-between bought the country 


in 2029, i wake up next to a stranger.
the word husband for us is like paprika —
it adds color. the wedding beads sag me into the
morning, my hairline voice clusters
with cracks. in the kitchen, i find myself tugging at the yellow
lining inside the egg until it bursts. i watch it fall apart
like a caged art — i watch the stranger head off to work. i stay
home, because i can, my new altar — there, a statue gushes
with cement — inside the statue is a mourning,
the lump gullied into the chest. the ground
bedded itself to my feet, their angry screaming
a creak — the haunting of the floor, cream walls,
flaky palms, chandelier looming over
like a tarantula. the floor paces my steps, the sound
padding the air. amma, do you know why i am here?
what hoards my mind is not the blank air but the
space between me and my stranger as we rubberly
slide into each other, when our rhythm keeps at
scratching like a dry throat. my stranger and i table
across each other with the sambar bubbling as our noise —
my mother whispered to me once that
she’d kill me if i didn’t eat so i ate even though
i was stuffed and today i am again stuffed — my bloat
carving a balloon out into me. amma, daddy, can
you hear me? the leftover of our silence
spoiling out of my mouth. on facebook,
all the aunties wish us happy 10th anniversary.
my stranger buys me 10 balloons to fill the air.
i build the stranger’s favorite sambar from my flaky palms,
ceiling it with the finest paprika.

* the title of the poem is to be read both horizontally & vertically* 


wee ledge cull3 chore

after Jos Charles’ “Feeld” 

mi granh ma wayks uhp aht 4 evry mourning
krushes kolord chawk / n mayks flaw5 irs en frunt of thuh haus
she dunt evr gow to aurt skull6
jus mayks hah haum en aurt
thuh wyld kanvess
mi granh ma gaut hah peer ye ud  aht 13
draw pd aut uf skull
staurt ed lurn eng flaw ir beld eng fraum hah moth7 ir
deed ent leaf hah haus a gayn
un teal sheh gaut mar8 reed9
thay say a womb mans vaw ji nah iz a flaw ir
a geeft tuh yaur haus bend10
a geeft thauht eef u peak11 too soun eet wheel nev ah b az
byu ti fuhl az eet 1 suh waus
suh mi granh ma tented12 tuh hah flaw irs
gayv thahm a doll13 cate14 nay chore
gayv thahm az a lot tuh mi granh paw
hiz chawk tuh craw shhh
aht thuh brayk uf done
hah peer yu ed
en frunt uf bod dee haus ed 

3 Cull : especially something picked out and put aside as inferior 

4 Chore : a hard or unpleasant task 

5 Flaw : a feature that mars in perfection 

6 Skull : the head as the center of knowledge and understanding; mind 

7 Moth : insect that benefits plants by pollinating flowers while feeding on their nectar 

8 Mar : to disfigure, deface, or scar 

9 Reed : a weak or impressionable person 

10 Bend : to force an object from a straight form into a curved or angular one 

11 Peak : reach a highest point; greatest maximum 

12 Tented : covered with or living in as a tent 

13 Doll : dress someone or oneself smartly and attractively 

14 Cate : a choice food; a delicacy 



Ramya Ramana, is an author, poet, songwriter and educator. Her works have been featured in The Southampton Review, Poetry Foundation, NY Times and The Source Magazine. Ramana is currently getting her MFA in poetry at The New School and plans to release a collection of poems upon culmination.

Featured photo courtesy of Creative Commons.