March 27, 2013


Mother did you not

hear him laugh?


Laugh as he watched us

rent the river apart

for our clothes.


Clothes he had gripped


in his hand.


Laugh as he broke our pots of milk,

let it pool over his feet,

let it pool over mine,

let its silken whiteness

leave darkened spots

over our clothes.


Laugh as he crushed my wrist

in his hands, his amusement

spilling in bursts of hot air

snaking round my throat.


He didn’t laugh like

the boy that he was.


He laughed with the confidence

of a man who had captured,

in the palm of his hands,

what he had wanted

before he could even ask.



Mother his laughter

followed me

wherever I went.


I could not breathe

without the winds carrying

the flutelike sway

of his boundless mirth.


But mother,

how could I scream,

when my friends were with him,

laughing back?


When they wept the moment his laughter

had left them?



When my daughters

begin to have daughters,

his laughter will haunt me again.


So gentle.

So teasing.

So sure.


He will look down from the heavens.


The men he sees

will be dots of sparkling dust,

a woman’s cloth crushed

in their python grip.


One of them begins

to strike his thigh.

The others laugh.



Krishna! she screams.

This woman whose flame-kissed feet

now struggle

to hold their ground.


Smiling, he will

lift the palm that had

once clutched the clothes

that I had worn.


He will lift his palm in a court where

no one dared lift a finger,

and cloth will emerge

as flames

from sacred pyre.


She lifts her eyes in gratitude,

knowing he will smile back.


He had kept his word

as a brother would.


All her life

she will remember

those hands.



Krishna! I screamed.

He had laughed

and refused to let go.



How should I

remember this?


5 comments to Gopika

  • I am currently reading the Mahabharata so this poem really resonated with me.

  • Shit, Anu. This poem is so powerful that every line made me bristle. I love your retelling. It resonates with the current political climate rife with discourses of rape culture. Just yesterday in my Feminist Theory class, we were discussing Christina Sharpe’s Monstrous Intimacies and the Stubenville Rape Case came up. And now, this. Brilliant.

    • Anu Elizabeth Roche

      Thanks Sanchari! Exactly…discourses of rape culture don’t emerge out of thin air, they are built — sometimes layer upon sexist, racist, classist, heteronormative layer; sometimes by things we deem innocent which get transferred from generation to generation. I’m so glad this resonated so strongly with you!

  • devika

    Indeed a piece of powerful writing, but prone to misinterpretation. Especially because religious symbolism and figures of the Hindu texts are being portrayed in a light that is completely antithetical to their belief and faith. The poem, to put simplistically, can hurt religious sentiments.. A take on Krishna, but loading it with sexual imagery and rape culture – what’s your idea of Krishna?

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