Sonali Pattnaik (Towards Visibility)

Sonali Pattnaik



believe your daughters

when they tell you

that they have been hurt

by you or your own,

inside their homes

so they do not grow up

to gaslight their own abuse,

calling the lashings of a man,

love, or defining silence

as an act of growing up


so they grow up to listen

to their own truths first,

not shrouded in the noxious

smoke of self-distrust

and know how to read the body

whenever it burns

with signs of hurt



I have to hope, no matter what

even though hope will be thwarted

slapped with a squirt of blood

the very next second

like a mosquito sucking

from my fleshy arm.

even so, I choose

the infinitesimal delight

of the proud parasite

high on sweet blood

not knowing that it will sucked

out of life in a flicker, a swipe

drawing from its abundant faith

in its ability to take flight.




celebrated, rewarded, sympathized,

a right of way: men’s labour


naturalized, exploited, invisibilised,

underpaid: women’s labour


the first is work, the other debt,

bonded for life is woman

through ideology that both glorifies

and disqualifies her body

no matter how calloused her hands

from lifting, feeding, and writing

how taut her back from carrying

the weight of all that moves

she has been written

into the script as sleeping


unless she wakes up

from this frightful slumber

with a knowing hiss

and steals back what was always hers

before his idle-logic came along


Dr. Sonali Pattnaik is a feminist poet, academic, educator and visual artist. She is Visiting Professor of English and Expert Member, Board of Studies at St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad. Her solo book of poetry when the flowers begin to speak (Writers Workshop) was described by Prof. Sudha Rai as “a milestone in Indian feminist writing” and as reminiscent of Sylvia Plath’s poetry by renowned poet and editor Candice Louisa Daquin. Dr. Pattnaik is the recipient of The Orange Flower Award for Poetry, the WE Illumination Award and WE Gifted Poet Award. Her poetry and art have been published in several anthologies

and journals including, Dissident Voice, Muse India, Yugen Quest Review, Parcham, Café Dissensus, Setu and FemAsia. She has long been an advocate of a gender equal society and has consistently worked towards this vision in her writing, activism and teaching. She can be found @

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