A Man’s Space – Poem by Mallika Khan

A Man’ Space

I used to try on my father’s clothes

His attire never seemed to fit me,

in his eyes anyway

I felt the emptiness in his work shirt,

envying how it compared to my shoes

Leather and sole,

tightening its hold as if it were

pinning my feet to the floor

My father could grow so tall

the roof would creak

as he leant his back against it 

I sucked in my stomach

but never protested

How could I say I needed more space

than what he had offered me

He had gotten so big

There was no room left for my vocal cords

So he ripped them out

The pockets of air in his shirt

became a cold comfort

Yet I wondered,

if I could stretch my skin

and blow up like a balloon,

could I fill a man’s space too?

I could take my mother’s hand,

tell her we need to leave

Father takes up too much room now

Growth has left little of me

a pair of eyes and a crooked tooth

But my body still aches

To spread my arms 

and fill my father’s clothes

To occupy a space he didn’t 

squeeze me into

To stand beside not behind a man

Someday I will no longer cower

before the men who forced their way

inside my skull,

and scrubbed with soapy water

to make me forget

Maybe I will learn

that air

is a grateful reminder of my place

when I feel constricted

That my space extends to the clouds

and even further

Poem written by Mallika Khan at Bristol Women’s Voice’s International Women’s Day poetry workshop with Rosy Wilson. To see more of Mallika’s work click here to go to her website.

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