No, I said. I want
to watch them behead
with the men.
Her eyes glistened
as the scythe sang
and spine. I’m proud
of you, the uncles said. It is
death. Her hoof, cleaved
from her shin. Her belly.
was trickling ant-shadow.
Pleasant banter. Her blood.
to slide the chopped acres
of her into hissing onion
was steam-soft and spice-bold.
I ate her between my cousins,
my palm across
the blood-gravy of what was left
on the filigreed china. Yes,
her more than
once: first with rice, then with
chutney. My first death. I felt
Feast or Famine
When the night gapes wider,
the child you once were
wakes and chokes with hunger
and you begin to soothe her
as you always do: first with hunger
and then more hunger,
because it’s summer,
because the days are longer,
because you have to keep her lean,
because yes, she has to learn
to want, because yes, she has to train
to run through spring,
its melting forests,
to follow the path of pines,
far from your parents,
far from anyone who pins
you to yourself after stubbing out lit
cigarette after lit cigarette
on your thighs. When the night
bloats open, tell the little
girl you still are and once were
to go back to sleep, go curl
inside the rise-and-fall of the warmth
asleep beside you—the one who loves her
and you—that she doesn’t have to deny
the past anymore, that in Bangla, “kheeda
laage” can mean “I feel hunger” as well
as “I want you,” that the swell of the belly
only disappears when she starves
you. “Kheeda laage,” you say to the one who strokes
her hair and devours
your mouth, and the ghosts
whittle into whispers flayed of their lost
There were the blue-tied garbage bags
bulging with her dresses. Then, the buzz
of junebugs on nights I sat on the roof alone
and asked where my sister was until I felt stupid
and stopped. What do you say to the dead?
How can we rejoin them when we fall apart
in the safety net below? Does she know
her friends Lauren and Cameron played
house after she died, set a place for her
at a play dinner table? As though she
might stop by for a few bites of air
from empty plates with spoons empty
of her short seven years on this planet . . .
it unbottles me, how precisely they lamented
her. What great material, the conference
well-wisher said. Can’t wait to read that poem.
Here it is then, now. The crinkle of your laughter.
The beetles pouring into your eyes as we toast you.
. . . But You Can’t Stay Here
Every day, I rack up some new cost I can’t repay,
and even now, I’m reluctant to run to the door
on nights the world sizzles with drizzle-drama,
all that drop and give me more. Tonight, the ghouls
are later than usual. Isn’t it polite to wait before
serving the first course? I murmur to my forebears
as they slide the biryani from the oven.
Uncover the lime wedges and old resentments,
they reply, so I do. At last, we lick each virtue
from our plates with satisfaction, then settle in
to savor spoonfuls of milk-softened toast
without dreading tomorrow morning’s inevitable
convo about self-worth. Speaking of, today
I stepped on the cat’s tail and sprang back
in apology, but when she didn’t yelp and dash,
I remembered: there was no tail, there was no cat.