What we have in common is that we aren’t the main characters of our story, or Princess Jasmine and Esmeralda meet for tea


Little girl, know the feel of silk, always silk, that wraps around
a thigh & keeps silver hilt hidden. My weapon

 of choice is the razor-sharp disks of a tambourine that chips

 stone cathedrals. I taught myself to slice at anything
& forget the cuts in my own skin. No one will save us. My body 
has scraped off in stone grooves from when I taught myself

  to climb. Red is never a colour of choice.

  Not when it’s running down from elbow to pulse point, not sitting
in silk, again, on chest. Bare shoulders

 & bare stomachs draw stares
that will do nothing good
but I wear this anyways. It is the difference of when I dress
myself & when he does. When it is my own hands that skim up

 & down. I have never let stone or copper
keep me in. A palace is but an obstacle course
domes so big they fall when I brush past –
okay, maybe I push with everything
because what else have I got? We wear gold jewellery

            so heavy they pull our ears down but this has only taught us
the strength of our own selves. No ripples of coins or vegetables bring pause.
I remember best my tiger, my goat, a firebird

that flew past my window one day.
Everyone who is not us
remembers the red. The red, the gold, the black

                        the brown that sits below. A pot of gold
isn’t so different from a cathedral after all.
A father, a lover, a best friend, a pet. A magical

answer comes out of nothing. I did not wish. I did not pray 
at an altar that wanted me dead. This was the moment
I taught myself how to run.

a

Manahil Bandukwala is the author of two chapbooks, Paper Doll (Anstruther Press, 2019) and Pipe Rose (battleaxe press, 2018). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous magazines, including PRISM, Room, The Poetry Annals, Parentheses Journal, Coven Editions, Bywords, and other places. he was the 2019 winner of Room magazine’s Emerging Writer Award, and won the Lilian I. Found Award in 2019 for her poem, “Things I have learned from laundry.” See her work at manahils.com.

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