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Love in the Time of Dissent

Vani Sharma

I’m lying back on my couch, making love while the nation burns

In a pixelated fire, conjured daily in news studios and fuelled by

The words of errant anchors; words that the nation doesn’t want to know

And would be better off silencing, really.

I shift beneath him and sigh, arch my back, my eyes shut:

While a woman loses face to blackness and pain

I voluntarily embrace the blindness that pleasure brings.

I listen not for the sounds of dissent, or the sounds of hatred and jingoism

Echoing down my street

But for the sounds of interruptions – was that a key rustling in my lock?

Are my roommates back? No, thank God –

Never mind that the water has been mostly cut off

And they could be in danger somewhere in this city

I wet my lips with desire.


He breathes down my neck, and his stubble prickles deliciously.

I believe the sweet nothings he whispers in my ear in the heat of the moment

It’s a collective disease of the nation, isn’t it? Believing too soon, I mean

But I pay no attention except to the slow-building ecstasy

And the release doesn’t clear my mind, but makes me want to

Snuggle closer into the web of lies that comforts me, stroking my hair.

As if I were a child and not an adult capable of political expression

Whose death could be of consequence, worthy of consideration.


He falls asleep on my arm, oblivious to my pain

Snoring while I struggle to extricate myself from under him

I finally feel his weight, pinning me down, rendering me unable to breathe

Yet I hesitate to wake him – I love him, after all

And he needs the rest, as all protectors do.

And so I suffer in silence for him.


Because the alternative would be waking him up.

The alternative would be watching his fair and handsome features

Arrange themselves into a disapproving frown

Or worse, a look of pain – ‘I thought you loved me.

Look at my mother, my sister – they laid down their lives so I could live

And you would not tolerate even a bit of pain for my comfort?’

I don’t want that conversation.

And to love him is my duty, regardless of whether he loves me back.


So I tire not of mindlessly repeating the words to old songs

Proclaiming undying love, and thinking of his mother and his sister

And their selfless love

And like a good girlfriend

And a good nationalist

I slather on the makeup to hide my bruises.


Published in Poetry


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