My aunt’s photo stares from the wall,
the way only the dead can stare.
Her polka-dotted blue saree,
in that black and white photo,
is now greyed and worn by time,
like all family histories.
She was diabetic, but her house
always smelled of jaggery.
She fed sparrows in the mornings
when she once whispered to me:
“There is a secret.
Our family’s pride
lies in the elephants we owned.”
I was by her side as she breathed her last
when she bequeathed a wooden case to me.
I opened it, expecting an elephant’s tusk,
Only to see the fading yellow of enamel.
I didn’t know elephants, like humans, had teeth.
The Tree Within
In Rajasthan, a woman and her daughters hug a Khejri tree,
before being axed to death together.
In Uttaranchal, an old woman hugs an Ash tree,
as loggers wait to cut it down.
In Kerala, a tribal woman hugs the last tree alive;
cries over a burning forest.
my aunt hugs a Muringa tree,
which still bears the weight of her childhood.
peace, resistance, and nostalgia
We are in a hurry to give names
to describe what women feel;
but sometimes, a woman comes to a tree
in a moment of loneliness,
away from thankless husbands,
children and rulers of the land,
who tell them their place is inside.
My brain is a compass trying to
place you inside a circle
But you escape eventually
to a new radius,
away from me.
Ardra Manasi is a published poet in English and Malayalam. Alongside this, she is a development practitioner based in New York City and has served as a former Policy Consultant with the United Nations (UN). Her poems have been published by India’s National Academy of Letters (Sahitya Akademi) and other journals and anthologies including Parentheses Journal, American Writers Review (forthcoming), Silk and Smoke, Reading Hour, Narrow Road, Camwood Literary Magazine (forthcoming), and Quesadilla and Other Adventures: Anthology of Food Poems. She tweets @ArdraManasi .