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Ancestry by Smriti Verma

Art by Oskar Kokoschka


It was last winter I saw an otter lying dead at the edge of the creek,

body flaccid, scaled like that of a bird’s.

That was also the time we swung our palms loose,

heading down February over a speed bump, and our mothers-

calling us out, yet the distance too large and the gravity too strong

for us to hear their voices.

It was the way we slid over frozen ice – the carelessness,

the tangling of bones, that reminds me of how

this time and that time was all but a series of endings.

Mother bent over my shoulder. Mother murmuring words of forgiveness.

Mother in the corner, home of lithium,

woman of feathers. Mother scratching skin with more skin.

Mother- lady of abandonment,

homeless and childless. I was a body until I was not.

I was a knife until I was not.

A story or a tale, split in two, a throat closeted with feathers.

The infant of the dead otter, cast away as earth.

And my feet: still tangled, bone dressed in muscle, spread over ice.

Smriti Verma grew up in Delhi, India, where she studies English Literature at the Shiv Nadar University. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Coldnoon, B O D Y, Cleaver Magazine and The Four Quarters Magazine, among others. She works as a Poetry Editor for Inklette and for The Ideate Review. In the past, she has worked as a Poetry Fellow for Slam Out Loud. Her interests involve film, literature and cultural studies. Find her work on


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