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.