My Pretty Girl, My Mother, My Devika

The very first time my father bedded you, I wailed from the insides. Of your womb, that is. I was a woeful little egg erupting in warning calls. My father was the somber-faced virgin with the hemp on his breath. And as your muscles flexed in support of his weight, the patterns of henna adorning your arms told stories and each was more horrible than the next. Women balance the earth between their knees. It was the first time since you were an infant that you were not undressing yourself, Devika; you feared you forgot your body as it appeared

naked. Your turmeric chiffon sari fell to the floor in a heap. You are an immaculate folder of cloth, always. Women balance the earth between their knees. Do strangers know how to fold things, even? Dear Devika. I was with you everywhere. From the fitting of your petticoat to when a priest bound you two together by the dope power vested in coconuts and incantations. What do you call a man and a woman the first time they make love without really wanting to? Or do you not call them on it at all, and instead sit pretty inside their tubes, praying they undo their walk over the threshold? Do you hear those hips gnashing together? A restless jaw in the nighttime. Devika--I could hear your toes curling. Kajol turned your tears black, like the juice of an over-ripe berry. To this day, the stranger beds you with averted eyes. Devika. He will make you move one million miles. What is the quickest way across the Atlantic, and does it include drowning? You will never see him smile, not ever. When from a dilated cervix, a second female is born, he will walk out of the hospital without having touched her. He will swear himself to celibacy. Women balance the earth between their knees but back then, Devika, when my father first bedded you, he brushed away auspicious red bullets of dry rice from your hair with unassuming tenderness. Wedding spectators thought you beautiful. Your luxuriant black was parted severely down the middle in a style you will come to hate. Your anklets made music when you walked. I was s creaming then, too--down the wedding aisle, around sacred matrimonial fire--your life became punctuated by a tiny misery lodged deep inside your hips. They called you a fine couple. For what else can you call call a man and a woman who (someday) want to paralyze each other? When he finished atop you he complained of hunger. Women balance the earth between their knees. Both parties get spent. He offered you a single pinch from the laddoos on his bedside. Devika. The stranger’s fingertips are like salt. You will learn that they overpower everything. But back then, he covered your tear tracks with marigolds, like he were putting a dead woman to rest. Night came. You retrieved a yellow veil from under the covers and hid beneath it, where people might have mistaken you for joyous.

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Bindu B
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