‘Reincarnation’, Second Place in Poetry


by Anjali Pajjuri


there are bhajans in these wicker chairs;  

Kali’s warnings etched in persimmon.  

turmeric and half-dried yoghurt massages,  

coconut oil, sandalwood soap bars: 

              all yield alabaster//virginal thought.  

strawberry milk cools my cupped palms as  

camphor winds carry mustard seeds and colonialism.  

emerald moon, a female scorpion 

paddy-field men push chariots laden by Aunty’s gossip (kalu! 

in the marsh lies a kingfisher choked by tamarind’s veins; 

but wasn’t i taught that temptation is a virtue?  

i praise the milkmaid for her kindness and 

recite this incantation:  

             Mother, undo me.  

              I rebirthed this fertile valley from my punctured breast;  

              its blood suckled brown sparrows and stained okra plants.  

              Thence, lay me down, if my in-laws will merit it. 

              Creator, Divine Feminine, Sun-Gatherer, Desire me this.  

serving uncles tangerine biscuit and tea on a plastic tray, 

i wonder; i admit. 


my consciousness is infinite, but my vices endow me. 



Bhajans: Songs with religious/spiritual significance in Indian religions.  

Kali: Hindu goddess of doomsday and death. 

Kalu: Indian colloquial term for “Black.” Negative connotation.