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

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


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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.

Suddenly, after years of rain, the truth comes like sunlight pouring through that open window. It takes a long time to get here, but it all comes full circle. It takes a broken, twisted person to come searching for meaning between my legs, but it takes a whole, complete, perfectly design person to survive it. It takes monsters to steal souls and fighters to reclaim them. This home is what I came into this world with; was the first home, will be the last home.

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You can’t take it. There is no space for you, no welcome mat, no extra bedrooms. I’m opening all the windows, airing it out, putting roses in a vase in the middle of that kitchen table, lighting a candle, loading the dishwasher with my thoughts until they’re spotless, and then, I plan to step into the bathtub, wash yesterday out of my hair, put music on, sit back, put my feet up, and enjoy this typical Thursday.

So when I first started writing years ago, it was a private hobby, and then years after that, it became a public one that I shared with some family and some friends. And then years after that, I began to share it with the Internet, and today, I’m lucky enough to say that it’s become my full-time job.

So when I first started to travel to perform spoken word poetry like you saw here today and to do readings of my book “Milk and Honey,” family and friends always asked me, “Don’t you ever get homesick?” And on the plane rides to and from, I ponder that question because the truth was I never really got homesick. I mean, of course I’d lie to my mom and tell her that I did, because what was I really going to say? “Hi, mom. Yeah No, no, I’m actually completely fine, I don’t miss being home at all.”

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