Gynecomastia and A Maddened Siren Song on a Rainy Night

Gynecomastia and A Maddened Siren Song on a Rainy Night

Gynecomastia,
they scribble down
in the medical report –
the sole clinic in town –
Gy-ne-co-mas-tia,
on sheets of paper.
‘Your son’s got this’,
Dr. Dilbar and assistant
tell Zeena, my mother,
‘a disorder, you see.’
Gy-ne-co-mas-tia,
them, scribbling down.

I can scarce pronounce it,
Gy-ne-co-mas-tia,
but perhaps it is apt,
that this swell should be
as inscrutable, disorderly
as all myself.
They should’ve called it
the falling of rain.

The rain was never discovered,
so no one would ever believe
my own theory
of my own disease:

For they say licking the tip of one’s breast
can cause it to swell, grow,
became more prominent, so;
this body-bulge once a mole-hill,
is the crest of a mountain now.

Zeena tells me ‘tis a disease,
this growth behind my shirt.
I should see a doctor.
And sometimes, pauses,
asks, shivering,
‘Where have you been?
You’ve not done something
bad, have you? No, No,
My boy cannot sin, my boy, good boy!’
The call from the mosques
bellows into the air,
takes hold of her; gnawed.
Her god’s a brutal fraud.
So we came here, now,
the sole clinic in town.
The clinic of gods?
And Gy-ne-co-mas-tia,
Dr. Dilbar scribbles down.

Unaware.

Of the thousand other explanations,
that breathe of indiscretions,
behind unraised, dingy shades,
that hid our kiss cascades,
those netted palisades:

The motel room was lit of rouge.
My boyfriend left incorrigible traces,
His tongue circling the periphery
of my chest.
My breasts are larger
than they are supposed to be.
Like a plant that was not to grow
taller than it should’ve.
Or rain that was not meant
to fall more.

Dr. Dilbar scribbling down,
mistaking the over-flow
of rain for disease,
reduces the tenor
of undone sarongs,
the body-wrongs,
of maddened siren-songs,
to an altered ratio
of estrogens and androgens:
Gy-ne-co-mas-tia,
them, scribbling down.

But I think I prefer it.
I should take it as something benign.
You see, we have a phrase in Pakistan:
Jo hoa achey k liye hoa!
Whatever’s done is done for good!
We inherited it from the gods.
Politicians use it to justify
the rigging through elections.
‘Tis a capitalist mantra, too,
to keep the lowly man,
lowlier so.

I never thought I would use it,
but sickness makes us blasé,
fatalistic.

I find my sickness beautiful now,
how consoling, when,
as Dr. Dilbar scribbled down,
the contortion on Zeena’s face
retreated like a wave
that ebbs by noon-tide.
‘It’s only a disease’,
she breathed thus,
‘my boy’s picked rosaries,
since childhood in mosques,
my boy, good boy!’

I am obscured before her,
and she smiles.

‘Surgery.’
Dr. Dilbar says at last.
‘Tomorrow. Five.’
The concocting of rain,
shall be undone.

I mourn,
that its falling,
won’t wet her sleeves.

“This poem first appeared in ‘Uprooted: An Anthology on Gender and Illness’, a joint collaboration of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University and the Stanford School of Medicine.”

About The Author

Asad Alvi is a writer from Karachi, Pakistan. He has conducted and facilitated several fiction writing workshops at Open Letters, a growing organization of creatively-driven writers and artists. In 2014, he was the recipient of the residential Writers’ Workshop at LUMS in Lahore. His work has appeared in a collection of short stories by the Oxford University Press (OUP), launched at the 5th Karachi Literature Festival, The Express Tribune, The Equator Line in India, Columbia: A Journal of Art and Literature, and in an international anthology of contemporary poems titled, We Will Be Shelter.
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