RISHITA

ACHARYA

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 risharockstar@gmail.com

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RUST

The ashen sky I sit  

shrunken in. with

damp gunpowder

in my small palms.

Sullen clouds lack

       thunder fill 

my     hollow 

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.

 

Elephant without

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 

                          repair.

Skulls sewn 

out of Rhino’s skin and hearts 

wrapped in Shark leather.

Everything

is still.

 

After/ the death of fire

there is only/ the waiting. 

for

smoke 

and ashes to settle.

 

Everything

is so/ still.

FAMILY ALBUM

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

family dinners.

 

Here.* My parents in

a garden. a marble       [Sunsets wet with my

fountain, orange         mother's blood.]

bougainvillea. 

 

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.

KITCHEN WARS/SONG

To view on mobile turn phone landscape

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

singing together.

STORAGE

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.

PASSAGE(S)

                  -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

with mothers

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.