When I was fourteen, I crossed fourteen rivers, walked to every village that fell under Big Mountain’s shadow, knocking on the door of every medicine woman that knew the mountain rock as her own altar—passing a message, trick of safety, ruse to rouge unmistakable into ordinariness.
They hid their medicine in the rocks of Big Mountain. Koh-i-Sulaiman stilled, growing graver still as it took the medicine in its safekeeping.
Until beckoned by time—signaled to return—trees were to remember, elderwomen to keep vigil.
Women were cut down. Trees passed.
and yet soil
remembers. Stones remember.
The medicine is yours to claim if you choose.
Every woman shed blood
on earth in a sigil her daughters would activate.
When I crossed into your grandfather’s threshold, women wailed behind me. I would continue to hear them, cameos of sundown shadows around my feet.
Twilight suited me. Standing in the courtyard, I would wear crimson like a beacon. Colors of the setting sun weaving rich geometric shapes around me. Particles of dust lacing through pink air. No instrument was necessary to tell me when to step out
to send off the day. I would light my lamp and wait for my farmer.
Once, barely two years into our marriage, he brought me a whole panicle of mangoes. The unripe, I left out for the crows. I let myself be endeared, let myself swoon into the care with which he picked and brought each fruit home.
The day your grandfather brought home the dying child, I set aside my day’s work. One by one I picked out red chillies blazing in the child’s eyes, placing them on a thali where they smoked. Soon, smoke drew in the entire village. People huddled at the door, tense with uncertainty, with fear.
It was the visitor’s eyes that first showed me the madness that would overtake our land one day. Friends would turn to enemies. Neighbors—kill each other. Girls and children would be raped. Boys would have chillies thrown in their eyes.
I did not sleep that night.
I slept, timelines
I thought I could free
my children from pain of memories.
I asked their dreams
to take memories away, fill their eyes,
dreams embroidered with gold thread of possibility.
I have always flickered between my two names.
life’s intelligence made of beauty.
wisdom growing like vines.
Women continued to gather
every full moon, night fire beckoning,
feet slipping away from the known
village. We who lived with keenness
marrow song splitting in our veins
found our drumbeat
From one, we split into three,
walked in three worlds,
feet tracing center of cosmos
with every footfall,
energy pouring from lotus skin
alighting to birth new
geometries of existence—
We returned with howl of morning wind, gold veins in our feet popping from our travels between dimensions,
peacock feathers in eyes.
When we began to forget, silence between us stretched thick
We whispered to each other the secret of remembering.
This was our trick: brick
by brick, building again the bridge
to rainbow unknowns.
I dreamt of you, granddaughter.
The granddaughter I would never see, and come to know.
I wove you a marriage chador. I wove you a coronet of butterflies—
dun-colored warmth of swarm from our high desert.
I danced with you.
Under the stars, child, I howled for you.
Howled my love for my three children.
Howled my love for my husband.
Howled my love for grandmothers in my blood.
I sat under the page of the book you would one day write,
tongue swelling with stories.
I wanted you to find me, be your own vessel
of truth, my love
for you to deepen
a groove to fit what you know you would be.