Rajasvini Bhansali



as your fingers flaunt
this funnel-shaped fashion statement
slim one-hundred percent
hand-rolled Indian
cigarette called beedi
I ask you to consider
a six-year old
paying back his father’s fourteen dollar loan
his sister’s dowry
his own freedom condemned to a one room industry
for the next four, five or maybe ten years
indigenous handicrafts?
he carried his father’s debt
beaten each day with the edge
of a sharp crooked stick
till he bleeds
to make one bonus beedi
over his quota of fifteen hundred
till he bleeds
to roll his childhood
in smoke
as your fingers flick into ashes
his twenty hour workday

Rajasvini Bhansali is passionate about building the capacity of people and grassroots organizations to facilitate sustainable social change through transnational organizing, art, conversation and resources and has lived and worked in Kenya, India, United States and Canada. She currently works as a program officer for a social change funder called International Development Exchange based in San Francisco that supports grassroots organizations and social movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Born and raised in India, she immigrated to the United States in 1993 and became a student teacher poet with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People at UC Berkeley. This experience had her teaching poetry to prisoners, homeless people and youth. In Austin, Texas, she worked with Sharon Bridgforth’s Finding Voice project and started a workshop series for multiethnic youth organizers called Poets on the Frontlines at Resistencia Bookstore. She’s written, published and performed poetry since 1995. She is currently working on her book titled Impermanent Resident.

(author retains copyright)