My friends, I have a small gift for you that I hope you'll accept: a fumbling & uncertain & honest reading of one of my favourite poems I've written, filmed while I was nestled in the gorgeous sanctuary of Virginia last year. That time of sun on my toes & joy in my chest feels too far away now, but watching this takes me back to that beautiful distance. Performing this piece was a rather nerverwracking - yet, simultaneously, an utterly glorious - experience. Perhaps I might share some of that butterfly-fizz-soft light with you today.
This is called "Love in Goddess-Speak" & was taken from my first chapbook, Heaven or This. I've also attached the full text here, if you'd prefer to read it.
A reminder that I'm able to share my art with you for free because of the generosity of my lovely Patreon fireflies. If you enjoy my work, please do consider showing your support in a tangible way.
Enjoy. I cannot wait to hear your thoughts in the comments. xox
Love in Goddess-Speak
The first time I realise I am in love with a girl, I am two moments past ghosting and every single cup of chai sneers as I pass. I wish so desperately to be anywhere but in this family. Somewhere catatonic, with no lungs for knowing. I am in love with a girl who has light skin and glass-stained eyes, and this is just another way of pronouncing star-crossed, autumn, the worn-down temple elevator when it grinds to a halt for no reason at all.
I am Indian in the way of American accent and smiling in Tamil when the relatives come to visit. Call me creature cobbled from medulla and the rhythm of song in a foreign tongue. My mother’s cousin squeezes my cheeks, asks when I will find a nice boy to settle down with. None of this is revolution, nor giant solitude, but I want to remember what the sky looks like when the world ends. In private, I disappear in her soft arms. In public, my uncle teases me about boys, pokes my ribcage, mistakes the tears leaking out of the corners of my eyes for good-natured laughter.
My body is a country pulled three different ways, trampled into topography of wanting. I read myths of goddesses who rolled India into their palms, conquered without blinking. Who baptised their souls with blood from another aching land, who refused to let memories pull them under. I curse profusely. I dream of her mouth. I do not let the words I bet Kali is a lesbian slip out of me at family reunions. My cousins side-eye me when I laugh at a sexual innuendo, wolf pack wondering. Later they will go home and speak fast in Hindi about my scandalous shoulders, how they peek around the edges of my sari like something not meant to be remembered.
I love her in the way that I love garlic naan and the feeling of a temple after dark. My mother passes the prata, alu curry. In this life, I am girl with hair cut short and heart too big for my body, too afraid of seizured legends and my cousins’ warring tongues. I ignore the questions cascading around me. With one hand I eat the food of a land I am learning to call my own, even as it pushes me further away. With the other I send her text messages under the table, feel the ground beneath my feet return to holy as I do.