Module 4


  1. Body without the “d” BY JUSTICE AMEER (Xe, Xem, Xir)

the bo’y wakes up

the bo’y looks at itself

the bo’y notices something missing

there is both too much and not enough flesh on the bo’y

the bo’y is covered in hair

what a hairy bo’y

some makes it look more like a bo’y

some makes it look more like a monster

the bo’y did not learn to shave from its father

so it taught itself how to graze its skin and cut things off

the bo’y cuts itself by accident

the blood reminds the bo’y it is a bo’y

reminds the bo’y how a bo’y bleeds

reminds the bo’y that not every bo’y bleeds

the bo’y talks to a girl about bleeding

she explains how this bo’y works

this bo’y is different from hers

bo’y has too much and not enough flesh to be her

the biology of a bo’y is just

bo’y will only ever be a bo’y

the bo’y is Black

so the bo’y is and will only ever be a bo’y

the bo’y couldn’t be a man if it tried

the bo’y tried

the bo’y feels empty

the bo’y feels like it will only ever be empty

the bo’y feels that it will never hold the weight of another bo’y inside of it

no matter how many ds fit inside the bo’y

the bo’y is a hollow facade

it attempts a convincing veneer

bo’y dresses — what hips on the bo’y

bo’y paints its face — what lips on the bo’y

bo’y adorns itself with labels written for lovelier frames

what a beautiful bo’y

still a bo’y

but a fierce bo’y now

a royal bo’y now

a bo’y worthy of being called queen

what a dazzling ruse

to turn a bo’y into a lie everyone loves to look at

the bo’y looks at itself

the bo’y sees all the gawking at its gloss

the bo’y hears all the masses asking for its missing

the bo’y offers all of its letters

— ‘ b ’ for the birth

— ‘ o ’ for the operation

— ‘ y ’ for the lack left in its genes

what this bo’y would abandon

for the risk of  being real

the bo’y is real

enough and too much

existing as its own erasure

— what an elusive d —

evading removal

avoiding recognition

leaving just a bo’y

that is never lost

but can’t be found

Source: Poetry (November 2018)

What is Xe, Xem, Xir?

Xe / Xem / Xir is a set of gender neutral pronouns that some people and/or organisations have adopted. For example, you would say “Xe is hungry” instead of “He/She is hungry”, “Please tell xem that lunch is ready” instead of “Please tell him/her that lunch is ready”, and “This sandwich is xirs” instead of “This sandwich is his/hers”.

However, it is relatively rare to come across this set of pronouns, because of a lack of awareness, fragmentation of proposed pronouns, and the difficulty in understanding how to pronounce some of the pronouns. On the flip side, the use of the singular “they / them / theirs” as gender neutral pronouns is gaining adoption.

2. The Sleeping Fool by Suniti Namjoshi

The dreamer absconds with his dream,

props his stone bride beside a stream,

where he washes, bathes, and gathers daisies.

These she refuses. He cannot please.

He runs, scampers, leaps and weeps,

He recites his verses; she keeps

her pure silence, her chaste repose. “What

do you want ?” he screams. “That

which you will not grant: to be, not seem

to be, to be the dreamer, not the dream.”

© 1982, Suniti Namjoshi

From: The Authentic Lie

Publisher: Fiddlehead, Frederection

About the Poet

Born in Mumbai in 1941, Suniti Namjoshi is an important writer in contemporary Indian literature in English. She has several books of verse and fable to her credit. She worked in the Indian Administrative Service and in academic posts in India before moving to Montreal. She earned a PhD from McGill University (with a thesis on Ezra Pound), worked at the University of Toronto and later at the Centre for Women’s Studies at Exeter University, UK. She now lives in the UK where she works as a full-time writer. Her poetry, fables, articles and reviews have been featured in various anthologies and journals in India, Canada, the US, Australia and Britain. A deep engagement with issues of gender, sexual orientation, cultural identity and human rights infuses her work.

Namjoshi says she got politicized during her sabbatical from the University of Toronto which she spent in England in 1978 – 79. “A major influence,” she writes in an email exchange, “was my friend, Hilary Clare (alias Christine Donald). She had more brains than me, she could out-argue me and she had a literary mind. What’s more I could see that she was fighting my battles for me, while I stood aside and did nothing; and that shamed me. She was active in both Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation. Up till then I thought that politics was something unpleasant that vaguely unpleasant people indulged in. I hadn’t realized that it had something to do with ethics. I had also assumed that literature had nothing to do with power. It was books like Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics and the work of writers like Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich that made me understand the extent to which sheer brutal power in the form of wealth and social ascendancy intersected with the literary enterprise and determined not just who could write what, but who could write at all and what constituted the literary canon.

Namjoshi’s work demolishes several stereotypes in one swift stroke: “She is a fabulist who is never preachy. A feminist who is never humourless. A poet who is never arcane. An intellectual who is never pedantic . . . Her work points to a deeply internalized radicalism, one that has as much depth as it has edge. Quirky, funny, intellectually agile, capable of making connections between the mundane and the metaphysical, adept at sniffing out the archetypal in the culturally particular, they point to a mind that is as engaged as it is engaging.”

© Arundhathi Subramaniam

3. The Cockroach - Luis Fernando Verissimo

In this political satire, an innocent meal becomes a bureaucratic nightmare.