Shamhat

From the beginning of time, the goddess reveals herself

through this earth. She comes and strips naked

before the eyes of those she has chosen. She purses her lips,

invites spectators to kiss. Their own fate

she unravels with her skilful tongue:

a tale of eternal sojourns.
 

This you must know, pilgrim.

There is no quench to your needs,

simply an acknowledgement of it.

Coming to this temple is not the end to your wanderings.

Merely a beginning of infinite pathways

Unfolded through my body

Welcome, touch.

But you must not make a home here.
 

Instead, I invite you to walk.

Tread with your arms, wrestle with your legs.

Plow, cultivate vegetation into this flesh

trying to swallow you whole

panting, stretching, growling
 

And when your back has already been clawed raw,

when you have devoured every fruit that grows,

when you have drunk water from every crevice,

when you have released your last seed into this ground,

cast your eyes at the expanse-

at awe in all things around you.

This land renews itself. Opens pathways

for her new stranger.
 

Let everything behind and before you

pass your view. Go.

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Hatchet

I have always been honest

except for the times when I have to obscure

emotions into lines like these.

The amount of poems I have written

are also the number of times I lied

by fitting half truths into shells

of acceptable excuses.
 

We both know my words are dead

Bodies at the bottom of the lake

Without soul, without ships to anchor with.

They stare back at me, eyes without light

I couldn’t look away from them.
 

Tonight, I let the waters claim another victim.

Flushing blood from veins, disintegrating organs

Into solubles. I bathe into my own essence

Sweat and fragrance carried into ripples

Briefly glistening then disappearing

Preserving a memory.

Heritage

These are the words of your ancestors-
Your grandmothers who have surfaced from the sea,
leaving the life of comfort behind,
humming growth and livelihood
to anyone willing to walk and be bruised.
 
They become the song of your mothers
queens who have long paved the road
with their footsteps,
who have discovered the ability to fly,
and have been burnt by being able to do so.

They are not lost to your sisters
who have managed to gather the ashes
at the foot of the stakes,
releasing them to the wind
as to where they originally belonged.

These are heirlooms from your kin
Your family who waits for you
should you decide to be born:

Know.

There is no permanence,
No land to contain your bones.

You are not meant for staying.
We are all pilgrims of realms.

There will be long nights
when you have to travel alone,
tend a fire within your body,
and eat whatever that grows.

There will be days when
you will be fed,
share a bed with a stranger,
and see the world glow
at someone else’s windowsill

There will be afternoons and midnights
when someone will graze at your palm,
holding you close,
pleading you not to go,

But you gotta be brave.
You have to trust
the universe who placed you here
will usher you safe
where you are needed to be.

Probably not as comfortable as you would expect.
Who ever told that flying on broomsticks is easy?
Who ever said you can grow fins overnight?
But you will learn.

It’s in your very marrows.
History etched at your spine,
Molten fire in your veins,
They are your heritage.
Waiting to be used.
Waiting to be acknowledged.

Graces

To exist.

To safely arrive from one point to another,

To enjoy the momentary stillness amidst the honking of horns,

To radiate the warmth of sunlight into another person’s hand,

To take advantage of being cold as an invitation to intimacy,

To write without fear, to create without warning,

To look into the eyes of a child, defying demarcations of time,

To impregnate yourself with joy, to be expectant of it,

To partake in the labor of the universe,

To surrender a bit in the grand order of things,

    floating on an endless ocean, finding your breath underwater,

    leaving your children in their sleep, trusting their innate gift,

To live, to swim, to grow their own gills,

To find water wherever there is,

     becoming more aware that the going and returning are just halves,

     of a person I long knew, and will know,

These are graces I continually thank for

Teaching my Left Hand how to Right

You know how things go, tender one.

You believe you are here for the sole purpose of supporting your sister’s shit.

Maybe it’s because of natural order

that you were considered inferior

so mama trained you to compensate in appearance.

For the longest time, you remained soft, smooth, and clean

decked with the finest of gems,

shelled in the warmth of a velvet pocket,

only for the small price of following someone else’s directions,

holding someone’s extra weight,

and picking the less important tools.

After all, she wasn’t named right for no reason.

 
You know how things go, tender one.

You have already resigned yourself

to a life that is easy just because you obey the order of the universe.

It’s a credo you have long since memorized

while your sister, your other self, upsets the balance by

flipping the bird and deciding to collapse

for an indefinite vacation

leaving you all alone in this house

to fend for yourself

without any last note or technical know-how.

 
You know how things go, tender one.

Life shits for the weak,

but I just want you to know

you have always been strong even now.

 
Grip.

Your limbs are capable to carry weight and open doors.

Maybe not as powerful as your sister’s

But strong enough to pick empty beer cans and unhinge a few locks.

You can still wash dishes, dust furniture, pull blinds

Purging this house of sheltered ghosts

As you let visitors in.
 

Grip.

Don’t mistake your softness for weakness. Your naïveté for ignorance.

There will be nights when the curve of your palm will be home for someone else’s.

Someone whose hands are roughened by a day’s work, calloused by life’s grievances

will find solace in the cushion of your tenderness.

You will be this hand’s stronghold

as its bones melt within your embrace.
 

Grip.

When dust gathers at the pads of your fingertips,

you will find yourself nimble to lift a pencil and shape clay.

Probably not yet adept enough to create a statement

but you can always start with tracing the shape of your name.

Learn its strokes, its intricacies,

your long loops, and abrupt stops.

They are imprints of your own making.

You are not your sister’s handwriting.
 

Maybe your sister forgot to tell you this:

Making lines is an intentional cut through time and space.

Keeping your existence entails work.

So grip.

Flex those tender muscles.

Do things that only those who are left alone can only do

instead of obsessing on how to be the next Ms. Right.

Because you can never fill in her gloves

but you can always choose not to be left behind.

Kiss Mark

Goody two shoes, you still cannot
dispel the magic that protects you from being
touched by a lightning bolt.
You are oil slipping through a sea god’s hands. A bitten fruit
whose seeds are untouched.
Do not forget
how you once wove a garment with your prayers
as you stripped before the eyes of the wild,
letting course hands run through
your breasts, your thighs–
pulling them into depths of consciousness
as you were being plunged into oblivion.

 
Now that your task is complete, your offerings have reached the deity you serve
and you retreat safe into your space
intact, unaffected.
Sleeping
as rain pour in heavy torrents
burying the land that sacrificed you into a deluge.

 

Let the storm rage, as your own seep out of your pores
break into the cracks of your character-
a mask of timid smiles and coerced amens.
One day these bite marks will heal
and the kiss that sealed you from being touched
will fade as the mist clears away.
Yes, the land will be fertile again
and you will rise like any other women
to plough
to sow

Tropic of Cancer

Pride-nourished bones:

An ivory head

cut clean and chiseled, crammed full of highway street smarts

smoothening the traffic of the senses.

It sits straight on the spine

made up of countless women’s cartilages,

a lumbar trail for the uninitiated,

stepped and compressed

to compensate for that extra rib.

Pelvis juts out in calcified defiance,

taunting anyone to a test of strength

tries to hide its soft parts within its sharp edges

honed by years of fear for an unknown intruder

that might just be herself.

All these weight are shouldered by these thighbones

trained to hold the added baggage

that my upper extremities refuse to put down

(I still had room for another pound in my heart).

 

I am proud of my home.

These bones

have built this self to stand tall,

strong in itself, strong on its own

A bedrock amidst the shifting sand.

 

But like all houses unfazed by summer storms,

mine begins to simmer inside.

 

A spark of lightning at the base of the skull

creeps a long way down to my spine.

It lingers at my loins,

feeds at my thighs

until my body roars to an uncontrollable furnace

a never dying pyre for the self.

It gnaws at its marrow

unsatisfied.

 

Pride-nourished bones:

My body is a bundle of fire wood-

a cruel insurance policy

in case of these internal emergencies.

Build your house with the sweat of your brow,

pay in blood when it burns down.

Remind me again,

What do dwellers do when their house wages war against them?

When the body betrays itself?

When elements crusade to convert

materials into beings

and beings into materials-

who should arbitrate on the matter?

 

My first ‘amen’

was probably breathed from

the heavy smell of a rising tempest

What used to be a tell-tale for refuge

Becomes a fragrance that lures

the self to strip naked,

to provocatively dance on fire,

to open windows and doors

and to surrender to the hurricane

allowing the tide to wash these bones away.

My house becomes a wreck- floats for

all the things I slowly let go of

as waves lap at all open wounds

salting bruises, cleansing pores,

dissolving all in the whirlpool of unlikely grace.

 

Sometimes what it takes to get out is to give in-

to rely on strangers,

or even storms

and believe that

these pride-nourished bones

will continue to drift on.