She remembers from inside the story,
inside the forest’s heart (a flush of green):
a dowry of twigs. Tree trunks as thick as lies.
When she is allowed, she misses herself,
covets the clean corners where her bones
meet, the dull pulse of her tongue on his.
All those misplaced stars, a misery
she can’t find. She has killed things
(though it is forbidden) with her hands
(the wedding mehndi long-faded),
has eaten on the wrong day, forgotten
to fast. She has pulled the strings
of the jungle behind her like a black net,
a wide-mouthed yawn. She holds it tight
so it can’t grow when she isn’t looking.
Vandana Khanna was born in New Delhi, India, and attended the University of Virginia and Indiana University, where she earned her MFA. Her first collection, Train to Agra, won the Crab Orchard Review First Book Prize and her second collection, Afternoon Masala, was the co-winner of the 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in the New England Review, The Missouri Review, 32 Poems, and Prairie Schooner, as well as the anthologies Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, and Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry.
Feature image by Sonia Mehra Chawla. Encapsulate IV B, 2008. Mixed media on canvas, 30 1/10 × 30 1/10 in, 76.5 × 76.5 cm. © Sonia Mehra Chawla.
Click on the image to enlarge.