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“Antyesti” refers to the Hindu funeral rites for the dead, when a body is cremated and the ashes are dispersed in the Ganges river—where it is also often customary to bathe an infant as a rite of passage.
I do not pretend to be housing pearls
under skin of dirt,
no seeds to meet water
under layers of farmland.
on this side of the Atlantic
protest is 7 o'clock news:
white noise to douse
Nani’s English takes flight
before two hands press together.
hello is traded for goodbye
as if a wifi’s hesitation
could hang. as if she is a match
that will light her daughter’s
ghar aa jao (come home).
all the women put themselves on mute
to hear my poems. see
eyes fill Ganga
like ash in macrocosm.
even if they cannot disperse
or my mother tongue
stifles on their sacrifice.
this elegance is tribute. my lineage
is burdened with drowning
women. from the 1,500-mile stretch
between Northern India
and the Bay of Bengal. our holiest river
is swollen with bodies.
girls they could not marry,
could not carry their elements
to origin. I will tell you a story
in which they are at rest,
now carried by remnants
and rocked to sleep.
I have tasted their soot
and struggle. we were birthed
from universal womb,
have bathed together
from each samskara,
(my mother once brought
me to the riverbeds, long before
I could walk)
to the collective, unbecoming act
of cleansing from his fingerprints,
how pure we are,
and no one is looking.
believe me. there is nothing beautiful to make of
of wearing white
to the pyre
of an aisle unrolled by flame, of a vow
afloat a bitten tongue, of a body
reclaimed entirely in backstroke.
I will swim home
in any language I can cauterize
aapki kahaani / kaee kaanon tak/ jayegi
(your story will reach many ears)
until we meet again.
Pujita Verma is an Indo-Canadian poet and illustrator. Her work embraces themes of resilience and silence, culture and (dis)connection, memory, and matters of the heart. Pujita was Mississauga’s Youth Poet Laureate and a Poetry in Voice National Finalist.
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