It Has Taken Many Years to See My Body by Tishani Doshi

By Wasafiri Editor on March 30, 2021 in Poetry


i. Muladhara

If we could reconstruct the temple of our bodies,

we all know what we’d change first.

A little demolition work in the zone of belly,

some gutting around hips and bum,

a coat of paint after weather-stripping the face.

I would kneel first at the hillocks

of my breasts and pay obeisance.

Praise the dainty bud of squirrel’s tail

that made them. In the miniature painting

of me, the background tree meant to symbolize

my beauty would not be laden with pomegranates.

Kumquats perhaps, or plums.


ii. Svadisthana

The first room they gave me was a prison cell

with a tattered divan and a dog named Akhmatova.

I entered it a mole, proprietorial, in love with solitude.

Then they moved me to a castle. Then a mud hut

without a full-length mirror. At night I walk

the passages with head bowed and covered

like those Rajput women in the miniatures,

striding out in rain to meet their lovers.

Back in the room, I step out of my carapace.

Strip off the lobster tail and corset.

Blood pumps and I stuff my knickers

with what I find. Moss and hemp, delirium,

accordions of linen. I bump into Louise Bourgeois,

carrying a basket of marble eggs. She looks at my breasts

and says, You do not get anywhere by being literal,

except to be puny, then hurries off to set up

The Return of the Repressed.


iii. Manipura

It would be a lie to say I didn’t dream of largesse.


iv. Anahata

As a girl I enjoyed synchronised swimming

like Alexander McQueen, even though I often forgot

the routines, and one of the other girls said, You’re so lucky

you’re flat, meaning the opposite. Neither she nor I knew

about the devastating chic of Jane Birkins’ tiny pets.

We had not seen Donald Sutherland hover over

Julie Christie for four long minutes in Don’t Look Now,

two naked golden planks. We did not even know

about the seashell-breasted women of certain Indian

miniatures, small-statured saplings, squatting

to squeeze water from their hair to feed a thirsty crane,

blouse hitched up the bee-stung slopes while feeding

antelope. We had been prepared only for the giant

heaving smother of Ajanta’s apsaras or Silk Smitha,

for decades of backaches. Thanks, I said. Yeah, Thanks.


v. Vishuddha


when I find

the lump all these

years later, my first thought

is that I should have been

spared this ignominy.

After all the hum of

pancake itty bitty,

a stone in this,



vi. Ajna

In the room

I’ve been given now

the walls are made of glass.

Outside is the desert and a city.

Beyond that the sea. A construction site

below has been abandoned. So many meticulous

rectangles arranged like open graves waiting to be filled.


vii. Sahasrara

One day at sunrise you come across your body

and greet it, as though it were a guest or traveller.

You bathe its legs and sprinkle it with sandalwood

and rose water. You may even have to protect

your eyes with oversized sunglasses, like those pilgrims

who can’t withstand directly, the gaze of the deity.

You will enter the inner chamber, this final doorway

in the infinity of doorways, and there will be no mediator.

No one to collect money or say a prayer, just a tapestry

of virgin wool, hanging on a washing line with wooden

pegs. You walk towards it in devotion,

touch it in all its fraying places,

bring it to your chest,

starving and full.



Listen to Tishani read a poem from her new poetry collection, A God at the Door, on our Instagram page

Tishani Doshi is Welsh-Gujarati poet, novelist and dancer. Her most recent books are Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Poetry Award, and a novel, Small Days and Nights, shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and a New York Times Bestsellers Editor’s Choice. A God at the Door (Bloodaxe Books), her fourth collection of poems, is forthcoming in spring 2021. She lives in Tamil Nadu, India.

Tishani is the Poetry judge for the 2021 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize, which you can enter here.