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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