“Slum Women” is a performance poem expressed using gothic literary and performative expressions like eerie head tilts signifying slow guillotining actions (noted between brackets), child-like voice emulations when talking about the rich, and Indian funeral dance actions.
“Dig the ground, dig it deeper, Mehmood, make the ground ready to eat her with the hunger
of a hundred Caterpillars death. Dig it faster, Mehmood, her lips are turning purple.”
I hear my father say these, mutter these, shout these words at my aunt’s funeral.
Corpse of a mirror, reflection lying there with a stomach inflated like she is birthing another
death which none of us want to see,
for it is going to be –
the death of us. [head tilt]
She was a Woman of Death, but called the Woman of Slums.
Woman of the slum not just because she lived in slums but because her tastes were slum-like too.
She always said –
“Misbah, I dream of wearing lips so purple one day that they will finally know I am a Skyscraper Woman. Puckering lips like a dream beyond this mauve, burgundy, brown; they say our dark lipsticks come out of the mud we eat, their clothes that we iron, which burn our lips, bloody bastards, look at what power they think they have on us.”
From then on, we both started calling ourselves Slum Women.
Buying the darkest two-dollar lipsticks with our monthly savings,
my grandmother used to tell us we looked like pigs with dark lips
and you are right, Grandmother –
We are the slum pigs, oink oink look at us
asking you if your money wants to come to our slum beds for a night.
We aren’t whores for your love,
slum women like us don’t wear dark lipsticks for love –
We wear them to call death
hide it in our stomachs
one… two… feel its legs growing in my upper rib
three… four… ouch! Death has legs that extend to my thighs.
We are vindictive witches about to purge death on your fields
death will look like an enigma of purple lips –
Purple is the colour that holds sunshine,
sings it a lullaby,
and then chokes it to a moonlight sleep.
Sunshine is a foe of moonlight, an obstruction for the moon,
to hell with your scientific idea that the moon reflects the light of the sun –
It does not.
Moon stealthily poisons the sun,
and steals its light.
We are telling you,
the poison will build so aggressively one day that
the sun will soon be dead.
Sun will be dead but we will birth things looking like it,
And they will wonder –
where did all the light go?
For people living in mansions,
the sun is the everyday morning sex alarm:
an invitation to kneel in front of god’s Gucci bags and bask in golden filth.
They will talk to their hundred-dollar per appointment therapists about
how the light went grim
they sleep more than required
an elitist sadness looms over them.
There will be a battleground,
my aunt will wake with purple lips of the blood of bugs that she ate in her grave and say –
“Hello, you. Your sun has left. [head tilt]
Children, this is the era of Slum Women.
Your pink, nude, light lips of elegance cannot stand in the way of our – what you call poverty-stricken cheap dark lips. Dare you touch or spit on our two-dollar lip pouts, for then you will know what we plan –
the death of you.” [head rises from the tilt back to a normal position]