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Something Falls

Something falls

the night we return
from the chariot festival

to celebrate Lord Jagganath;
the last time I’ll come home

with the face of a flushed and happy
six year old just back from a street fair,

the smell of cigarette smoke and sweaty crowds
pressed on my flesh like perfume

when pushing my way
like a mole through soil

for a seat on the small wooden Ferris wheel –
tumbling-boxes we called them,

painted a lurid red and yellow, tilting dangerously,
overloaded, and moaning like an animal

in pain. It is late when we walk home,
a long way. Running to keep up with my neighbors

and a friend of my father’s who
has never witnessed this lavish Hindu festival,

a sailor called Salvador from Bombay
and whose ship is in town. I am in love

with him, all three and a half feet of me –
in love with his name, his beaked nose,

his stories of dogs, the sea, Jesus. How I blush
when he visits. Everyone teases me

as he blows me a kiss when he leaves. I never
sleep that night. Neither do my father,

mother, or grandmother. Holding me
in turn, they knead my thighs and calves,

as wave after wave breaks within me, my muscles
convulsing. My father curses the neighbors

who made a child of six walk such a distance;
my mother’s high voice says she has fever,

wipes my sweat, lays her soft lips on my forehead;
granny mutters girls shouldn’t be

roaming around anyway…; and I,
writhe on the bed,

suck in their terror like a black hole

while some invisible disease
like a wrathful angel

wrestles my flailing limbs to the ground,

leaves me to learn my broken body,
drag its burden the rest of my life.




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