• Marías at Sampaguitas

Poetry by Akanksha Patra

where I come from


where I come from—

women wear blood-thick awlta on their feet,

it fills up the cracks on their soles like Kaveri’s tributaries.

men jump into wells, 20-ft deep

and bathe away their names, their keep-nots and keeps.

the air smells of ginger-flavoured, cardamom-sprinkled tea,

and as the land lives to another day, horizons sigh with relief.


where I come from—

old, torn postcards sing of decades of yearning

a lover’s feet by a lover’s lips, burning

in wait of destiny’s turning.


where I come from—

local pishachinis gather at midnight under bael trees,

and roll off revolutions that set wives free

of the chakla-belan, the vermillion and the chudi.


where I come from—

rice cakes of jaggery are imprisoned

in jute knit baskets tied to the roof,

to rescue which, little girls climb mountains,

breaking an ulna in the process, losing a hoof.

here, little boys chase orphaned kites, and hefty clouds,

the biscuit-like sun, and the ancient ice-cream vendor around.

they stub their toes off cot-edges and scrape their knees,

they hold poison in their throats, gnawing on wild berries.


where I come from—

the gods leave their garbhagrihas to come

dance, out in the rain, in the month of Shraavan.

rivers, filled in abundance, like overwhelmed mothers

spill out all their love onto the cities’ streets,

and the hearts of Men march to the Ghanta

the hearts of women sing alike the Mahuri.

a sandalwood incense fills everyone’s courtyards,

and the ashoka blooms to saffron glory,

outside my window.



glossary:

  1. Awlta: or Aalta, is red dye worn by women on their hands and feet

  2. Kaveri: a river on the Western Ghats of India

  3. Pishachini: a feminine form of a negative spirit

  4. Bael: Aegle Marmelos, a sweet fruit found in Southeast Asia

  5. Chakla-Belan: the wooden board and rolling pin used to make rotis (bread)

  6. Chudi: a bangle

  7. Shraavan: or Sravana, the fifth month of the Hindu calendar and the second month of monsoon

  8. Ghanta: (pronounced ghaw-nta) is a metallic gong, a percussion instrument played during the majestic Puri Rath Yatra

  9. Mahuri: a traditional Odia wind instrument played during marriages

  10. Ashoka: the state-flower of Odisha, blooms in clusters




Akanksha (she/her) is a 21-year-old Master’s student of Clinical Psychology, who wants to save the world. She's often found hiding behind a giant heap of books, reading poetry late into the night and writing out detailed stories off minor incidents that mean nothing, really. She can speak 6 languages. She is a lover of skies, chaser of butterflies and the smallest person in a room, always. Her Instagram is @annesextonstan.

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