daayan summons the village "goddess”

by RAENA SHIRALI

 

at the altar, men must hover around you

strangely, squatting in the wet dirt, waiting

 

for a sign. they must praise your forehead—

sindoor traced from part to temple

 

just so—the kumkuma perfect circle, so centered,

surely your aura must be pure. o, the jewel

 

you have called yourself, woman with light eyes,

woman i tended with, contended with—

 

how we laughed when the men couldn’t keep

their gaze off you. now, they imagine you

 

too radiant. they’re seeing pastel pink

emanate off you in waves. never mind—

 

i’m outside, in the rain, trailing fingers

through the mud to make sure you know

 

i was here. the puddles keeping me company

are dim mirrors—or maybe i’m the one

 

who’s faded—but dark magic thrives on fair

suns. inside, they chant for you, bless the parts

 

of you inclined to destroy (old friend, can’t

you see : all women crave a burning). brief silence

 

from beyond the trees. they shout

my name. i press a seedling

                                            to the earth.