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Forced Smiles
PKJ (September 25,1940 / Mavelikara in Kerala State of India)

Forced Smiles

The smiles on my face
Aren’t real. They are forced.
They veil my anguish
And try to hide ill repute.
When I succeed to impress
visitors and neighbours
That my smiles were real,
I get a big respite.

But this veil fails to veil
The many deep scars
Of old wounds and the
New cuts still bleeding.
Truthfully I’m ashamed
To face our neighbours
For, in the nights I scream
Loudly while they are sleeping.

Not to let the neighbours hear
My yells, when my drunken husband
Shouts and cruelly beats me,
I struggle really hard.
But womanly weakness often
Fails my efforts, I know.
Are the good neighbours not
Pretending to have not heard?




He comes home daily late,
Invariably drunk,
After visiting his concubine
Who gets all his good part.
He brings home for me
And his two children
His most loathsome mouth
That spews out stinking dirt.

My silence will enrage him.
My answer will infuriate him.
My staying away will annoy him.
If I’m near he will brutally hit.
While beating me cruelly
He will roar like a beast
If I caution him of neighbours
He’d say “you eat neighbours’ shit”.

If I say “for children’s sake
Check your talks and acts”,
He’d say “you and your children
Must hang yourselves and die.”
My children lie awake
The night long, sobbing.
They’re humiliated by friends.
So to face others they’re shy.

The real cause is that
His concubine’s young and voluptuous.
I, with all my burdens,
Don’t look young or allure

A good part of his income
He happily spends on her.
He neglects me and the children
How long shall we endure?

Most nights I do starve.
Children are undernourished.
We lack all essentials for living.
We hide our misery and suffer
Much more than misery
It’s the shameful humiliation
And growing ill repute
That we are unable to bear.

Many times I planned
To end this torment by suicide.
Thoughts of the children
Held me back all the while.
Should the children also
Not end with me I wonder.
What life will they have
By growing up like snail?

Second thoughts also
Often creep into my mind.
My suicide might land my husband in jail.
It can ruin children’s future.
It will beset the family with
Lasting disrespect
And the rest of the community
Will isolate it and abjure.

These thoughts weigh heavily
And agonize my mind.
This façade of forced smiles
Is to hide my agony.
Will not the light of sanity
Enter my husband’s head
And banish the darkness one day
So that the right path he may see.

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