A naked Kali dances atop the mantlepiece.
The smell of paraffin hangs in the air
Like the death of glory on a breeze.
This night would be a cold one.
My sisters warn me about how
Like the red and gold weave,
Of my spurious halo,
He will leave this night a victor,
With my skin under his fingernails,
And Mother’s gold between his teeth.
I am spread like hot butter
Across his laundered sheets of saffron.
We stain them, and he roars like a tiger in November.
He forces me to grovel.
I submit and suffer, suffer and submit
Till I have lotus-shaped bruises
On my knees from all the kneeling.
Ghosts of women line the bedspread–
Burnt sienna, ginger, and henna,
And their harrowed howls like glass
Rip my tongue into ravaged consent
And leave a bloody petticoat
I will wash too many times to remember.
He calls me Saraswati, Durga, then Lakshmi-
A holy trinity of virtues molded
By pandits and the patriarchy.
The temple bells thunder.
I look into his livid eyes- searching.
There is a field and in it is an eight-year-old girl.
She is running. I blink.
It is the back of a bus now.
There is a metal rod, and there is a woman.
She wants to run
But the windows are tinted, and the highway is lonely.
He is lighting a cigarette.
I watch as the rolling paper turns
From Constitution to blood and ash.
The garlanded bed becomes a funeral pyre.
I watch the naked Kali burn
As the man chants hallowed scripture,
And citizen registers.
I am reminded of our steps around the fire-
Seven sins too light, seven sins too heavy.
I search amidst the rubble,
For fragments of law,
But find only half pages-
From preambles and prayer books,
Bits of burqa and broken bangles,
A chai wala and his last cigarette.