Rupi Kaur: I’m Taking My Body Back at TEDxKC (Transcript)

Rupi Kaur at TEDxKC

Here is the full transcript of Canadian poet Rupi Kaur’s TEDx Talk: I’m Taking My Body Back at TEDxKC conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: I’m Taking My Body Back by Rupi Kaur at TEDxKC

Rupi Kaur – Canadian poet

It began as a typical Thursday: sunlight kissed my eyelids good morning. I remember climbing out of bed, making coffee to the sound of children playing outside, putting music on, loading the dishwasher, putting roses in a vase in the middle of the kitchen table.

Only when my apartment was spotless would I step into the bathtub, wash yesterday out of my hair, like the walls of my home were decorated with frames, bookshelves, photos I’d decorate myself. Hang a necklace on my chest, hook earrings in, apply lipstick like paint, sweep my hair back. Just your typical Thursday.

We ended up better get together with friends. At the end, you asked if I need a ride home and I said yes because our dads work for the same company, and you’d been to my place for dinner many times. But I should have known when you began to confuse kind conversation with flirtation, when you told me to let my hair down, when instead of driving me home toward the bright intersection of lights and life, you took a left to the road that led nowhere.

I asked where we were going, you asked was I afraid, and that’s when my voice jumped over the edge of my throat, landed at the bottom of my belly and hid for months. All the different parts in me turned the lights off, shut the blinds, locked the doors, I hid at the back of some upstairs closet of my mind while someone came and broke the windows. You, someone, kicked the front door in, you took everything, you, someone, took me.

It was you who dove to me with a fork and a knife, eyes glinting with starvation like you hadn’t eaten in weeks. I was 110 pounds of fresh meat you’d skin and gut with your fingers like you were scraping the inside of a cantaloupe clean. I screamed for my mother as you nail my wrist to the ground, turned my breast to bruised fruit. This home is empty now. No gas, no electricity, no running water.

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The food is rotten from head to foot. I am layered in dust; fruit flies, webs, bugs. Someone called the plumber, the stomach is backed up, I’ve been vomiting since! Call the electrician these eyes won’t light up. Call the cleaners to wash me up and hang me to dry. When you broke into my home, it never felt like mine again.

I can’t even let a lover in without being sick. I lose sleep after the first date, lose my appetite, become more bone and less skin, forget to breathe. Every night, my bedroom becomes a psych ward where panic attacks wake men playing doctors to keep me calm. Every lover who touches me ends up feeling like you. Their fingers – you, mouths – you, until they’re not even the ones on top of me anymore; it’s you.

And I am so tired of doing things your way. It isn’t working. I’ve spent years trying to figure out how I could have stopped it. But the sun can’t stop the storm from coming, the tree can’t stop the axe. I can’t blame me for having a hole the size of your manhood in my chest anymore.

It’s too heavy to carry your guilt. I’m setting it down. I’m tired of decorating this place with your shame as if it belongs to me. It’s too much to walk around with what your hands have done if it’s not my hands that have done it. The truth comes to me.

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