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Three Poems by Sharanya Sharma

content warning: descriptions of violence nandi relays a message after an endless swallowing    of years a little girl, limbs molded from mother’s darkest saffron stole   to my soot-stoned side hewn from…

content warning: descriptions of violence

nandi relays a message

after an endless swallowing    of years
a little girl, limbs molded
from mother’s darkest saffron
  to my soot-stoned side
hewn from sweat      and love. 

hungrily she cupped a hand 
       to my frozen ear.
     the cold pelt          singed 
       in her exhale   as 

with earth-stained lips she
scratched words           into being 
  the way eyes
were once carved 
           into my face.    she said 

             lord       give me a mouth
          that is too full            of teeth
to hold a prayer still
             in my blood. 

and skittered away      before a guard 
    could tell her not to touch me 

           as if the whorls
           of her ancestors’ fingers
           were not imprinted     in my skin. 

unblinking i gaze
into a land of concrete      and glass. even
here,    in a view
of metal ants and water
        i cannot cross, i see 
             your feet 

blue thighs poised      melding into 
             sea and sky 
                 toes jeweled 
           in a blanket 
               of white. 

they call it snow. the falling
of silk slivers
that disappear into hair
              and flesh. 

lord, tell me.        will they 
    know the difference
when heaven 
    splinters open         and pours 

Image: Unnamed Goddess statue, Indian. Information unavailable at the time of this photo (Art Institute of Chicago). Photo by Sharanya Sharma. 

letter to nydia, blind girl of pompeii, from an unnamed goddess 

child, i               am not immune 
 to ravaging, 
               like you. 

i, whose mud-colored palms 
were sculpted for blessing
fingers carved
inch by inch 
into meaning 

now sit behind unfaultable glass 

where eyes linger ravenous 
on the misshapen shattering 
of my breast 

the brusque edges left 
from severed hands. 

if i bled in the uprooting 
     of my body, 

                the shredding
of muscle              from bone, 

like you                they 
     would not see it. 

it would have rusted 
        into the umber stone 
              of my skin, and 

the immutable bow 
of my lips. 

                          in the marble   hills      of your eyes 
                               the lithe        valleys  of your brows 

             i see the shape of your terror. your
          elegant breast slip out. your 
             curls stream like           little brooks 
                 over a shoulder
            as           a swanlike hand 
rounds an ear 

                         hungering              for salvation. 

the molten folds
of your dress 
         flood around a column
crowned            verdant 

              a perfect ruin. 

                            i wonder            who are you 

                                                         to tell me             about destruction 

                                                                     and grace? 

Image: Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii, Marble. Modeled 1855-1856, carved 1858. Randolph Rogers, American. (Art Institute of Chicago). Photo by Sharanya Sharma.

(inspired by Shanti Ghose and Suniti Chaudhury) 

when even love is a prayer we shriek
from the pistol’s mouth. when even love
is a scream we splatter in sandalwood
paste and blood. when even love’s grin splinters
gums throbbing from chewing patience and sucks
dynamite’s greedy tongue. when even love
crawls in next to us between shadows shaped
by cold iron bars, white-eyed, small belly
bloated with famine. when even love smells
of carcasses oozing in heat and gnaws
her own crusting skin to stay alive. when
even love is a mad black-skinned goddess
whose soft lotus petals we anchor
in our hair before charging off to war.

An interview with Sharanya Sharma is published on Sixty here.

Featured image: Sharanya Sharma. Sharma sits with hands folded under her chin, elbows on a white table, with multi-colored notebooks in the foreground. Sharma wears a marigold cardigan open over a black and white striped shirt. Behind Sharma are several pastel throw pillows and a large plant, and natural light comes through the windows. Photo by Kristie Kahns Photography.

Sharanya Sharma is a writer and teacher from Washington, D.C. whose work deconstructs mythology and explores the effects of the Indian diaspora. She received an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Black Warrior Review and Silver Needle Press, and has received honorable mentions for the Academy of American Poets Award and the Bain Swiggett Poetry Prize.

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