Honeyed Verse

honey dripping
down my tongue—
sweet and sticky innocence.
I’m supposed to knot ribbons

golden syrup
around my tongue—
prevent anything but sweetness
from being gifted into the world
by these lips of mine—
which speak
in shimmering
sweetness to hide
the bitterness within my
tongue, are my words poison?
Without the honey
fed to me

spoonfuls of
admonishment, would I
make utterances other than
filth—if I speak not honey, if I
unleash the crackling of popping candy,
or the burn of spice (which will not be alleviated
by your honey),
if I speak without a dripping of sticky
sweet, am I
your perfect flavour
of innocence?

This poem is the manifestation of a frustration with ‘innocence’ being equated to the way I, as a girl, speak. It begins calm and measured, a logical argument, but breaks in the end into provocative and direct questions. I wanted this to be the sort of poem that can be read to restore peace in the mind of girls who choose to refuse these spoonfuls of honey—the acceptable things we can say. We’re often told to speak sweetly, coat any of our anger or passion in sweetness—for which I thought the sticky viscosity of honey would be perfect. It is okay not to speak in ‘honeyed verse’, and to not be considered ‘innocent’ when you speak of things forbidden to you.

Tejaswi Rawal