Automaton By Thushanthi Ponweera


The machine whirrs beneath her feet,
The fan whirrs above her head.

Her fingers move swiftly,
Guiding the cloth beneath the needle,
Stitching jackets and pants
and dresses and bras, Ones she’ll never wear,
Or see being worn.

Hair neatly combed,
Back hunched over,
Punching in early,
Punching out late.

Plain tea and rice and curry fueled energy.

Able to take ragged edges and turn them into neat lines.
First one, then another,
And another,
And another.

For hours,
For days,
For years.

Pain is a sign of weakness,
To acknowledge it, indulgent.
Period cramps and raging fevers
are for the ones
Whose children back home don’t need new school shoes,
And for those whose parents’ kidneys aren’t failing.

So why are they calling her selfish,
When all she has been is selfless?

When she has always left her sense of self
Folded into a neat rectangle every morning,
Lying in wait under her pillow,
To be reclaimed only at night.

By Thushanthi Ponweera

Thushanthi Ponweera is a full time mom and an aspiring writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Her poetry is usually typed hurriedly on the phone, before her kids wake up. You can follow her writing journey at @thushponweera

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