Mobile Toggle




Emma Karn '21 is the 2nd place contest winner of the 2021 Fighting Words Poetry Contest! Below is her original poem "Sing, Sing of Our Grief," written in response to reporting by Jahnavi Sen, the Deputy Editor and Executive News Producer at The Wire, and can be found on Twitter at @jahnavi_sen. Jahnavi has a BA in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and an MA in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, Geneva. Emma Karn will be attending Fordham University.

"Sing, Sing of Our Grief"
With lines from “‘Buzz of a Mosquito...But With the Sound of Grief’: The Lives of India’s Women Prisoners” by Jahnavi Sen, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

A callous optimization problem:
“to fit 45 women in a room so small”
We lie, outlining each others’ bodies,
Craving the silence of an empty place,
Hearing instead the tears, the beatings,
The sounds of no control

It’s as if we bear a mark;
“a stronger sanction than the law”
Binds us. We have done the forbidden,
Living in a way you say you don’t approve;
We can tell you, there was no other option,
And we had no control

Your body is always watched
“and there’s nothing you can do”
Their gaze makes you shrink to nothingness,
Confined, denied, treated as soulless flesh,
They weigh each grain of rice to feed us
With what they can control

We have been taught the
“work women ‘ought to be’ engaged in”
Sew, chant; time will flow at its pace,
Our families may be waiting for us,
Our families may already have abandoned us
And given up control

Tell me all that you have lost.
“they didn’t care that we were leaving”
A child, sliding out in a bloody storm,
A memory stripped away with every blow;
Cursing the walls that forget our grief
We have lost control

image shared from Pulitzer Center tweet

>Learn More About Pulitzer Center