by Scherezade Siobhan

A bathroom as white    as the elephant it cradles. I,
            Airavata – heaven’s milk-toothed cloud,

its neurotic satellite.      Corbelled tusk; a
gorged spigot    choking on    henna-bled water.

Outside, my mother’s     metallic croon     roasting  star
anise and black           cardamom  in a coppered skillet.

Fear makes

an animal more luscious,   massages nectar
back          into the meat.

Baptizes the prey        with an oracular musk.
The kind of game         that nurses you on

its marrow, lets you    punish it      to the last whisper
of a wishbone.       I sleep in a pool      of my own sleaze.

I wait for lightning to spear me


a crate of red berries.      Red as my mother’s
coal-kissed hairline.     Red as the bottle

whose belly        we hollow         for a sinless tenderness.
God  asks you    drain the heart     to an indigo wrinkle.

Let exhaustion supple     the arid muscle.   Return
it to the tremble of its urchin vein.    Foreign is not

filth; still a body poisoned   by the silkweed  it mothered
within.   When you pray,     it is only to choose     what kind

of river  will     your deadwood serif :  hunger is     a woman
dragging turmeric      over the broken   bowstring of her lips.

This mouth is    a benediction    for stubborn houseflies;
can eat   and   lick a wound    at the same time.   I can see

her nose ring    squint    like a private ember.   I hear her
breath snap    between song   and smoke.          Pakeezah.

The one pure lie   she can’t be loved    away from.

Every Sunday     in the verandah,   the carcasses lay;
a zodiac   of gutted chandeliers.    Each  with its lights

parched  by    a ham-handed exorcist.

All the men    laughing    into tin mugs,   desi liquor
dribbling   out    on the goatgrass,         their fingers

braided  into    the hunting knives.    Their nails,
blood-tarred     like the husking        of  a silence

redder     than    her bagged    afterbirth.


‘Pure/پاک.’ has been shortlisted for the 2016 Berfrois Poetry Prize

About the Author:

Scherezade Siobhan is an Indo-Rroma social scientist, community catalyst and hack scribbler of two poetry collections: Bone, Tongue (Thought Catalog Books, 2015) and Father, Husband (Salopress, 2016); and one poetry pamphlet, to dhikr, i (Pyramid Editions, Forthcoming in 2017). She is the creator and curator of The Mira Project, a global, cross-cultural dialogue which uses expressive art and storytelling to dismantle gendered violence and street harassment. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Feministing, Berfrois, Rattle, DIAGRAM, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Word Riot among other digital and print publications, anthologies, exhibitions, art galleries and sometimes even in the bios of okcupid users. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee for writing and can be found squeeing about militant bunnies at or @zaharaesque on twitter/fb.