Poems by Shrijana Subba

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Heirloom

When your mother raises her hand; earthy
brown, skin cracked open—
sun parched field—
iron hot temper
and hits you
the pain melts your
flesh,
bones,
marrow.

When your mother raises her hand to
strike you
the pain bites (your pet rabid dog).
She throws the foliage of her swallowed dreams—
barren land that was hers
and her mother’s
and her mother’s mother
who couldn’t till a field.
It hasn’t rained in years; the heirloom is passed on to you.

 

In Memory of a Sacrifice

First, they brought a goat.
When I say “brought” one might think
it was a smooth transaction:
“running fingers through your combed hair” smooth,
“sipping lemonade with a straw” smooth,
like “fetching this animal,
this pastoral nomad from its pen
while it sucked its mother’s teat” smooth.
For once and the only time, the goat battles its docility
threatens its takers with horns
so blunt and so lethal as my fingertip.
So they sneak a rope around its neck and
parade it.

There goes the goat.
There goes a defiant metaphor.

His wife of ten years left behind
fodder for neighbourhood gossip,
hors d’oeuvre to be paired with tangy shrimp,
and a child—a memento for a farewell that
never took place.

She took her most flattering clothes,
she took the most flattering man.
Yes, he’d undressed his wife night after night,
took her in his mouth,
yet he could never strip her completely to
know her bones
(they were brittle and bored).
She took his honour.
Heavens, she stole his honour.
Gods had to be appeased
his honour needed to be restored
(or was it a boomerang finding its way back however far it went?)

Next they hanker for a shaman
who prepares the sacrifice.
Mustn’t Gods be cannibals wanting a taste of blood?
Incense sticks cough a smoke so thick
it rises heavenwards, tickles the Gods’ nose
and makes those boisterous drunkards look down
with disapproval.
The goat bleats one mighty sigh,
the goat falls with one mighty strike;
blood restores honour,
colours it violent red.

Nobody tells him the pain still continues.

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Shrijana Subba is a writer from Darjeeling and is currently based in Kolkata, India. She started writing poetry after falling in love with the works of Sylvia Plath and Kamala Das. Her short story, “Anathema, or I No Longer Dream,” has received an honorable mention in Wingword Story Competition.

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