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3rd prize - 2018 annual awards

Photograph of Fiona Mukherjee

Fiona lives in books more than she lives anywhere else. A young poet from India, she is currently in the role of a research scientist in Japan.

An Ordinary Euphemism by Fiona Mukherjee, India

The taste of Biriyani lingers,
From yesterday
Lavish, royal.
The solid oil sleeps, an adamant layer on the tongue.
Between the molar and pre-molar sticks an awkward strand of beef
My tongue lurks here pushing poking aggravating agitation.

Decapitate me today,
As I step inside your temple

My dripping curls let loose
Widening the wet circle on my back-

As the thick smoke of incense
Fails to do away with a faint smell of the 'holy' meat
From up my frothing roaring stomach,
I dream of beef chunks, feel saffron inside a lousy potato
Thin long rice and ghee

As you make me stand in front of the clay deity...
Purify me with drops of yellow water
Brought down from Varanasi

Tell me, what do I pray?

That girl, with the bloody undies, let her in, if she wills,
The woman under burkha, pious and eager
Unacceptable but in bed and stove
Let her in.
Who knows not but to clean stains, lay and deliver
Let her queue up at your alter
Decapitate me
For I mock you
Sacrifice me
Let her drink from my sinner's blood.

"Would we go to hell?"
She says "I am guilty of looking at other men."
"I am guilty of debauchery."
"...of touching myself sometimes..."
"A little eaves-dropping, and lifting from his wallet now and then."
"For the kids, for the kids, they are always hungry, you see?"

We are condemned to live.
They won't let us in.
If only because we are so ordinary!




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