The pink dogwood buds pop on green branch.
In St. Peters church: beneath the Lucite cross,
from his snowy mountain, rajastic in white,
Father Conri gives a shining sermon
on “the many evils of women.” Some kind
of joke. It’s Mother’s Day for God’s sake.
My mother, Queen of my Cosmos, sits square-
jawed, knuckles hard. My sisters and I sit
like painted dolls that fit inside her.
He speaks: Eve—as all Women—we know is
responsible for sin, for sickness, for death.
Some 8,000 or so miles from here,
in a temple orange with marigolds
girls my age chant: God Is Mother,
Praise Devi! With her three eyes, ten faces,
eight bladed weapons, with blue jeweled
ornaments on her many fingered limbs.
Devi who abides in all beings, praise
Devi who the men call when they have lost
Devi is unknown to me at 8
I find Her at 22, in chants
prayed in the basement of a temple, on wet
white streets of London. Where doctors of brain—
my mind to them a boring cipher, ask Why
do you hate yourself? Chart words: “Patient refuses
to eat.” An ocean apart, my mother’s voice
in voicemail. I erase.
Mathatma! Goddess of Volition.
Some seven hundred verses daily said,
Nourishing as my grandmother’s chicken stew-
we cannot eat.
As I am 8 and we are in the church
still. The cross sways with Conri’s breath.
He quotes Saint Magnus, beloved by the church:
With women we must all be on guard.
In evil and perverse doings, woman acts
slyer than man. My mother’s hard jaw creaks.
A freckle bounces on the side of her cheek.
Father Conri is winning. Words leave dark
chapels in our flesh. He has wrested life
from the gods, feeds us sickness in a cup.
Oh Devi! Bring your face, in red hue
like the rising moon. Topple this man,
grind him with your lion-teeth. My mother,
a wax figure, my skin stuck to pew. Then!
a golden light breaks above the altar,
shimmers like fire, devours
the cassock’s clanging bell.
My mother’s face alight. My sisters
and I, glisten like Devi’s soft sword.
Father Conri, finally the wind
exhausts. He sits with sighs beneath the cross.
But we, the small women, we are shining bright.
Illustration: Shreyaa Krritika Das