by Shweta Narayan

She carved me from a Bodhi root drunk
on the butter-white mother of floods
weaned me on jaggery
and ghee. I was early, impatient
to scream. My clothes too big. The wrong
doctor birthed me—the man, at her bed. She gave me

bottle-glass eyes,
a tongue of shards rolled together
in blood-gold honey. Her needle
grew blue-and-white flowers
on my too-big dress.

Listen: banyans strangle their hosts.

She painted me on fig leaf skeletons, heart-shaped
flesh rotted away to leave
that last filigree breath. Laughing girl in pigment
dried onto dead veins. She says
I bit my brother and cried, fey-cunning,
baneful. Breathless, I couldn’t stop talking. Words too big;
I too small for old-bottle eyes. They found shards
of rusty razor in my mouth.

Listen: I sickened. We always do. She’d hear
that wet rattle in my infant chest
with every shallow breath. She waits

for the daughter she made to twirl in blue dresses
and spit out the shards
and laugh, to forget
that great river, that first mother, before
water-words spill drunken from my glass-sharp tongue
and take root.

Shweta Narayan’s poetry has appeared in Goblin Fruit and Coyote Wild, and her fiction in publications such as Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, and The Beastly Bride anthology. She attended Clarion 2007, for which she received the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship.

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