Zaffre gnaw marks down Beauty’s sides

make her glass case body gleam: youth firing
……….through the tempered veins
Man’s bites dent………………..but cannot break her
…………………………
his teeth incapable of releasing the molten spirits
swimming in her……….those who made her
………………………………..
to be this pliable
        To drain her he needs a spider’s web of cracks

Love is that moment she holds the key to her own spine—
……….
the key that could disassemble her—
    with it he could flatten her
…………………………
hold that spine to the light
……….    read what’s been etched into her
if he could sever her thumb
it could slide into his mouth
…………..
leave an open palm with an idle key
………………..
   ……….an open wound to wrap his tongue around
one he could draw hard upon

—-

He desires to shatter her palms
     desires to toss them to the ground
     desires to read the shards’ constellation of fates
     desires to know if his is lost somewhere in her

if she would have him
……….
he wouldn’t have
……….decades missing
………………..gratitude      joy      meat      coffee      memory
he’s lived instead the life of an indigestible ache.
his refuge  is  in the craters he’s bit into his cheeks
……….
he waits for the blood to coagulate crusty
………………..but his mouth remains wet

       she feels his presence near her body bending warm
some time before
………………..she’d traversed the spectrum of blue.

.

Devi

I cannot touch the holy books, a prayer rug, step to the altar, or, smell
………………..
the mangos left out on the rooftop to dry. The cleansed women will make
………………..aachar, spice it with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. But when
………………..the gods know I am bleeding.

I may be left outside to sleep on a reed mat.
…………………………
Though the temple may be mine, I will be plucked
………………..and left to tarnish in the sun, an apple tumbling away,
pistachios crumbling out of dusty sweets.

…………………………When I was young, Beauty told me
I am not to pray during this time.
…………………………
I become sacred. She taught me to take gram flour,
…………………………raw turmeric, and cow’s milk cream. Take the mixture,
…………………………and apply it to my face. When the bathtub is left holud,
…………………………I will radiate beauty.
She ironed my best clothes. She massaged my scalp
…………………………………………..
and coated each strand with a concoction of
…………………………………………..coconut, jasmine, and almond oils. She lathered my lashes
…………………………………………..in castor, said, You are
………………………………………………..
so special. You hold
…………………………………………..…………………..
all the world, in your palms, all the strength.
………………………………………………..You are capable of even murder.

.

.


Nadia Choudhury is currently a poetry candidate at the Rutgers-Newark MFA program. She is an Associate Poetry Editor at Fairy Tale Review. She has previously been published in Four Chambers Press