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Saraswati praises your name even when you have no choice

By Purvi Shah

“Patel, a 33-year-old woman who lives in Indiana, was accused of feticide – specifically, illegally inducing her own abortion – and accused of having a baby whom she allowed to die. The facts supporting each count are murky, but a jury convicted Patel and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.” – Emily Bazelon


You had a name no one

could hold between their

                              teeth. So they pronounced

               a sentence. Had you the choice,

you would pilgrim

to the Vermilion. It is no

Ganges, but you could dream for tiger’s

                              blood, for eight tributaries to open

into palms bearing girls unfettered. Before your baby

was a baby,                      could it float? Could

a stillness of breath                     be the air asking

for alchemy                       as you cast your life as a spell? These days

the world is looking                      for witches. You had been

searching for a day        beyond labor, option

of pleasure, a choice unscripted

by parents, borders unscripted

by choices, a passing

salvation. You had not

expected this state – punishment

for a wrung womb. These days

you mourn: when                       you are free, you won’t

be able to bear               the children you

wanted. In silence, you pronounce                     your name as if it came

from the crucible of river, from the first                             throat broken

                                                            into a cobra of desiccated streams.

Added: Thursday, May 18, 2017  /  Used with permission. Second place award recipient in the Sixth Annual Abortion Rights Poetry Contest (2017).
Purvi Shah
Photo by Willi Wong.

Known for her sparkly eyeshadow and raucous laughter, Purvi Shah inspires change as a non-profit consultant and writer. She is curious about language as dreamwork for love, transformation, and justice. During the 10th anniversary of 9/11, she directed Together We Are New York, a community-based poetry project to highlight Asian American voices. Her book, Terrain Tracks, plumbs migrations and belongings. Her chaplet, Dark Lip of the Beloved: Sound Your Fiery God-Praise, explores women and being. Her non-fiction has been published on The Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and VIDA. She has developed 9 short films including What Creates Change?, a film on ending violence, and designed multimedia community-based programming for healing through Movement to Power, a 2014 creative workshop series for survivors of violence, advocates, and community members. For her leadership fighting gender violence, she won the inaugural SONY South Asian Social Service Excellence Award. Discover more @PurviPoets or her website

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