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Inheritance by Darsana Mohan

Artwork by Medha Kulkarni

My mother sang poetry to me as a child

She slipped it into lullabies and evening prayers

Between gulps of boiled milk and brittle rusk

Like biscuits that melt into tea

There are pieces of my memory, forever lost

to native poetesses warning me of the world to come.

I had told her how I wanted a sister

How I didn't know there could be another

Until I saw neighbours tying ribbons in their hair

I wanted the secrets that hand-me-downs whispered

And the grip of a hand as I walked home from school

When she laughed and kissed my cheek

I would learn and grow up learning that there are no answers

Only poems.

The last time I was home

We spent an evening reading Sugathakumari

On a front porch that knew few steps

My tongue slipped clumsily over malayalam rolled into song

And she held my hand to pick up the words I had misplaced

She will always be carrying me.

When the world tries to tell me what I must be and do as a woman

I will go back to this evening

Of the stories of us

When I see strength in myself and others

In the daily protest of how we live

I will pick up remnants of lines she sang to me and

Recognize them for the secrets they were


We are built from scarlet letters and scarecrows

Looking up and sideways

Into a camaraderie of shared yet different circumstance

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