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.
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.