Pillow Talk – Meher Manda

The gate had been heightened to make up

for growing bodies and kept locked from the inside,

making it too high to scale and too strong to break.


Meanwhile, come late afternoon, all my mothers curl

into one another for stories as if to say that when all

of youth is done and dusted, all that’s left are splintered


fragments of vitreous memories. In such times, there was

little to do. Not a gate to scale or pass through, not

mothers who were caught up in unmothered times,


before their wombs had etched whole bodies

in their image. What was a girl to do then but conjure

sisters, pass through the verandah with heart burdened


by anticipation, soles singed by the burning ground,

and pour stories into those touch-me-not leaves that

opened and closed, soundless against the well’s infernal rubble.


I confessed everything. About the time I stole the hard seed

of pickled mango, and fed it to the dog’s paw

reaching out to me through the new gate, too high to scale


and too strong to break, how the dog hasn’t been seen

since he was last spotted with my sin. About the time

my mothers were snoring so loudly, they didn’t notice


how deep into the well I had bent my body, how one

moment’s consideration pulled me back so fast

I doubled over backwards into the arms of the blistering earth.


And about the time, revolted from the first sign of blood,

I flung my clotted underwear into the backyard

for nobody to find. Finally, my own mother calls me


over, smothers me in the fresh sweat of her afternoon

nap, but I’m too scared to reveal everything that has passed

between my body and the verandah, a world growing


hotter and smaller still with my shame. We lie

together on the ground limited by a home

that has for women, mothers stuck in the past,


for sisters, shriveling touch-me-not leaves, for

water, a death wishing well, and for door, a gate

too high to scale, too strong to break.

Meher Manda is a poet, short story writer, journalist, and educator from Mumbai, India, currently based in Brooklyn. She earned her MFA in Fiction from the College of New Rochelle, where she was the founding editor-in-chief of The Canopy Review. She is the author of the chapbook Busted Models published by No, Dear Magazine and Small Anchor Press in 2019.

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