Kneeling 1920 1491 Meher Manda

In the middle of a fight, I fall to my knees and straighten

the wild seams of my mother’s saree—in genuflection,

my argument whimpering into a compromise. How blindly

one knee follows the other, how staunchly they pierce

the ground, how quietly my toes curl up in memory. Yes,

I have knelt and divulged my chest to the sky with supplication

in front of a Lord, before the doubting and suspicion, and then

naturally for a boy, before the world clarified his secrets,

and for every animal, that has run to me ignorant of my sin.

I have made obeisance to the dying plant, my thirst lodged

in the back of my throat, and I have curtsied to hate, my body

cinched into a bite, vulnerable and open. No stock has been paid

to the jabs from the earth, to the soil and its fear, its rubble

crushing under the impact of my performance. Snow, gravel,

weed, and cement has been dented from my falling. Little

flowers have met with precocious deaths under my weight, and

life went on like nothing spectacular ever happened. Lately,

however, all acts feel futile. I do not know if there is love that can

weaken my knees anymore. The Gods too have hung their heads

in shame, and their devotees have conjured a schema more irreproachable

than ordinary. This world, its entrapment, the scorn that sits

criss-cross-apple-sauce in the hearts of most men has stiffened

my knee caps. Watching my mother kneel to pray has become

an exercise of embarrassment; her gangly hands cushioning

her knees a show of how far we’ve arrived in beseechment.

I have seen what kneeling has done to men and women,

and recently I have observed that no one is able

to become one with earth without a solid cry. Maybe,

the older I grow the more I’m aware of how close I am

to the ground, my shadow on earth an ominous premonition.

Yesterday, I watched a cat crawl into the mud and emerge soon after,

and wept the song of jealousy. No such luck waits for me

and the rest of mine. When I go down on my knees now, I hang

on to the seams of my mother’s saree — try to remain a daughter

still, in the eyes of whatever fate is keen to befall us.

Header photograph © Denise Nichole Andrews.

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