Pepper Spray

she has been carrying pepper spray
for four hundred and thirty seven days

three times she had to ask the man in the store store store
three hits and misses before he looked her in the eye eye eye

she goes to all the marches
left_
 _right 
left_
_right

she lights all the candles
left_ 
_right 
left_ 
_right

(she has a secret
left_ 
_right 
left_ 
_right)

she has never used it
(the pepper spray)
never had the chance

no one has done anything to her
no one (save the man)
no one (save the man (who sold her))
no one (save the man (who sold her (the canister)))
no one (save the man (who sold her (the canister (of fearlessness))))

nirbhaya is what they called the other girl on tv
the fearless one
she doesn’t know if it’s fear she feels
she slides freely between dread and boredom

she has been carrying the essence of forty red chillies for over a year
december in her purse march on her keychain july in her pocket
each time she has practised pulling it out in front of a mirror like de niro
you · talking · to · me | em · ot · gniklat · uoy

no one has done anything to her
no one save the man who looked at her
three times times times
three hits and three misses
breast eye breasteyebreast eye

she catches the same bus she caught four hundred and thirty seven days ago
(one hand in the pocket where it now usually stays)
she walks the same walk to the departmental store
(one hand in the pocket where it now usually stays)
she sees the man man man

she pulls out a hand that is not quite her own
shaking
she paints new eyebrows on him

she is a tad disappointed that it is red
(the pepper spray)
in one nightmare it was black
in many fantasies it was black

almost as an afterthought she adds a red moustache and a red beard
the man is not man enough

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