Select Poems by Tania De Rozario

Personal Possessions

At church, our pastor, expert
exorcist, taught us about demon

possessions: women and children
were the most vulnerable. So maybe

I should have been grateful
the day they came wanting

to drive those demons out: Cleanse her
while she is still young and surely she will grow up

What they did not understand
was that I’d lived my whole life

with ghosts: a father I’d never met, found
hanging from a ceiling fan, a shell

of a grandmother, gentle mind garbled
by disease, a mother who decided she had

to lose herself to some god in order to be
whole, to lose herself to an invisible man

who would be by her side after every other man
had left. It’s no wonder they came to my house

searching for ghosts: they were spilling
out of our walls. I was twelve, I was told

I had demons inside me because I dressed
like a boy, spoke like a boy, swaggered

to games of soccer with the boys, but
spoke only of girls: “See how angry

she is?” they said, not letting me
leave, “That snarl is from the devil.” Seven

hours they spent expelling evil, burning
my things on the stove, yelling

at what was inside me. Between broken
belongings and a broken heart, I learned quickly:

when they say that something inside you needs
casting out, it is you they are referring to,

because if it isn’t demons, it’s desire
untamed, or damage done by dad and mom

who did not teach you that women wear dresses
and men wear pants, that every gesture performed

wrong is celebrated in hell. I learned that
you don’t need to believe in god to believe

in evil, because that’s what I was, a wrong
in urgent need of righting: I seethe now

for words I did not have then to correct
your fearful vision: can you not see

the line between possession and self-
possession? That it is me, not

the devil you fear? That my rage is a gift
from god? That you will never cast it out?



Grandma never told Ruby about
the cape, how it was made to protect

her from herself: the wolf in her heart
that wished to burst from the forest

in her chest, to howl into the night
at the full moon. The girl never knew

what happened each time she leapt
panting into the woods, ran free, joy

throbbing through her veins. The axe
belonged to the hunter who believed

he was rescuing her from the wild jaws
of her own hunger. When he cut her

open, she was found cradling herself
dwelling in the loss of her own skin.

Tania De Rozario is an artist and writer based in Singapore. She is the author of And The Walls Come Crumbling Down, (Math Paper Press | 2016) and Tender Delirium (Math Paper Press |2013)–the latter was shortlisted for the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize. Tania was the 2011 winner of Singapore’s Golden Point Award for English Poetry, and is an alumna of Hedgebrook (USA), Toji Cultural Centre (South Korea), Sangam House (India), The Substation (Singapore) and The Unifiedfield (Spain). Her poetry and fiction have been published in journals and anthologies in Singapore, India and the USA, while her visual art has been exhibited in Singapore, the USA, Europe and the UK. She also runs EtiquetteSG, a platform that develops and showcases art, writing and film by women from and in Singapore. Founded in 2010, its current work includes the development and facilitation of art and writing workshops focused on issues of gender-based violence.

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