Rishita Acharya is a student and spoken word artist pursuing Masters in English Literature. Her poetry is like her small home town in Rajasthan, India - simple, growing, but always connected to its roots. She mostly writes about her experiences of being a woman of colour and her navigation through trauma in an orthodox and patriarchal society. You can write to her to rave about poets and poetry at
The ashen sky I sit
shrunken in. with
in my small palms.
Sullen clouds lack
chest while I watch.
The rats nibble
away my sun.
Sick feet of this body. color
of the hair of my newly ageing mother.
The concrete ground they fail
to stand on. dirty rubbers. Hands
cemented over eyes.
The leaden tongues too tired,
shining swords dulled into
blob of blunted iron.
tusks. Wolf without
teeth and claws. that we
have become. A vintage
poster of Monroe.
Static noise of brain’s screen &
the broken antenna, we do not
out of Rhino’s skin and hearts
wrapped in Shark leather.
After/ the death of fire
there is only/ the waiting.
and ashes to settle.
is so/ still.
I flip through it. like
a cheap restaurant's
menu. on the
greasy plastic cover
the photos of
a stretchy pizza* or [Sepia/Amaro]
a juicy burger*. [Increase contrast]
I read menus
Many times. A habit
acquired to fill the
[ ] during
Here.* My parents in
a garden. a marble [Sunsets wet with my
fountain, orange mother's blood.]
Here.* I am born. [The fortress my
laughing, like mother builds for us
a river. with her soft hands.]
I stick out my tongue, [Five minutes after
sitting on my first the photo is clicked,
bicycle. I scrape my knees.]
Here.* Four of us, [The other side of my
Smiling. little sister's cheek,
her pink polka-dotted the slender, pink
frock is cute. imprints of callous fingers
on the baby skin.]
*Photos in the menu are for representational purposes only.
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Kitchen smells sweet but our mouths taste of soda
when my sister tries to bake a cake/ but she is getting
better/ don’t tell her I said that/ I try
preparing tomato rasam from the recipe
my Malayali high school chemistry teacher
dictated to me on my insistence/ on some days
our kitchen smells of curry patta and coconut/ warmed
by the steam sneaking out of the steel idli-maker
on Sunday dad spoils us with daal-baati soaked in spoons
full of golden ghee/ one afternoon
mum makes aloo chorchori and begoon bhaja/
she has started watching a Bengali Youtuber
who lives in New York but cooks Bengali food/ in our kitchen/
the spices are in a rhythm/ stranger dishes finding tongues
to talk to each other
but on some days in our kitchen/ we
hurl words that put the edges of knives to shame/ we
shatter hearts like cheap china cups kept as extras/ we
are always speaking different languages to produce a silence/ we
turn into stranger dishes.
Then there will be a day
my mum will soak chhole/ roast spices
for garam masala/ the pan will simmer with the rich
gravy of garlic onion and tomatoes/ and we will be
even if in separate plates,
even if only for an hour, we will be
My body stores.
Muscles are bowls
they hold. Well
I am a pitch-black moon
On my open mouth
place your lips and speak:
Can you hear the echo?
O oh I was dug out by a lady
with the finger nail of her pinkie
I was raised to hold the sweet
waters of sweat. Blood
is a burden reducing me
to a finger print I wear like
a dog collar. I scratch my neck
no wonder I am told
My water is turning salty.
I am always dreaming of the sea.
-Two bodies sprawled on the cool grass next
to each other breathing out the August heat
into the syrupy air warmed with red dragonflies chasing
each other into the sky full of cotton balls tumbling
across a terribly bright blue table. Two people
waiting a little longer after it is the time to leave
to just breathe in a bit more of the universe
born for them to walk through.
If it weren’t for the pandemic, maybe
we could still be. a lot of things, we could be -
STRIPED EEL CATFISH
Juvenile striped eel catfish stick together
A shoal of hundreds, swimming like one
huge brown bulbous pulsating monster
To fool the predators, keep them at bay
as they wade, above the sandy bottom
and nebulous dark reefs.
We are a bunch of college girls
reading newspaper headlines about girls
gone missing from the streets
in my country like pennies
devoured by the valley
between the cushions on the couch
Forgotten, until another headline
bones found in dustbin
the meat licked clean by wolves.
We are girls
who told us tales
of Persephone and Sita
to not stray for flowers or golden deer
to not step outside the Lakshman Rekha.
We are girls
Stepping out of our shared apartment
with our brown bodies and hands
linked together, I imagine
We are striped eel catfish
our guts─ our barbels, sensing for danger
I imagine our spines─ serrated
with venom that turns the catcalls
on the lips of the boys at the corner
into a painful wound.