This dusk road home is not littered with rotten
lotus-root, burnt rubber sheet, or any stillborn
calf’s slick waiting to coat their feet.
Mama does not coconut-oil their limbs
so their skin yields easy
where their shorts end. Mama does not tell
them of Yamraj’s yellow eyes in their father’s
face, does not pad their cottons before his midnight
summons. There is no habit of counting
the stringy coconut leaves twined
into a lance, his falling caresses not rain,
plough, or searching the supple bridges
behind their knees to break against.
He does not slur how eating a palm’s worth
of food is to be earned. Mama’s dirge is not
the one they sing to the goats before
they are led into the vermillion yard.
She has no thirst to prepare her young
ones’ bodies, to remember the etch
of stones, to trace the way they strip
a spine. She does not say
the brown threads on their palms
are a bearable measure of earth to be buried in.
Prerana Kumar is an Indian poet completing her MA in Creative Writing at UEA. Her spoken-word achievements include Verve Poet of the Slam prize (2019), BBC WordsFirst Finalist (2019) and Asia House Poetry Slam Finalist 2019. She has recently contributed to English Heritage’s ‘Untold Stories’ project and has work published in Inkwell, Verve Poetry Press’ Community and Diversity Anthologies, Use Words First, and Ink Sweat and Tears.