1. anabolism (n.): the synthesis of complex molecules from simpler ones together with the build-up of energy.











be careful, dalit, with your words,

with your posture, with your touch —


you, who rolls the dough, supervises the fire at the woodstove,

you, who sniffs, snorts like a camel everyday as you draw water from the courtyard,

you, who agitates my slumber with the glitter of anklets as you clean,

you, who watches over me as i struggle to eat with childish fingers, 

watches the achaar drip down my chin, mango pulp like sinews clinging to my lips; i wish

you could just let me eat alone.


years pass, faces shrivels: marred, sagging flesh,

a mother’s eyes that cannot meet mine.

my unchecked tongue cannot help but wonder at the

scars at the soles of your feet, scars i cannot touch on

skin i cannot touch for its searing impurity; i know i should not be asking

why, but your shoulders stir tar-slow and 

you answer me anyway.


        II.       catabolism (n.): the breakdown of complex molecules to form simpler ones, together with the release of energy.


this scar is from your father when you were born.

his words spill out of it, hot and sticky like the blood you were soaked in

when you were thrust from your mother’s womb, as unsettled watchers murmured. 

the man banged his fist on the table with resentment, your mother moaned like an orphaned calf,

chhori hai, chhori hai. it’s a girl.


this bruise is from when you were fourteen,

and your ma showed you an engagement ring. you sobbed,

begged, your throat raw and bleeding like a housefly crushed under a foot; your

dreams of becoming a doctor simmering with the arguments, but she just laughed. you ran,

ran as far as you could, tripped over god-knows-what, watched as bruises flowered

like poppies on your knee.


this mark is from your husband the day before you fled, you can still

feel the heat of his palms draw away from your thighs, slick with blood,

a pearl-like stone in your mouth so that you do not scream,

so beautiful that it is unworthy of your touch.


this wound is from when you came to work here, when your 

unholy dalit skin unknowingly touched the silky brahmin pelt of my sister and

mataji’s face ruby with fury, jewels of anaar in her cheeks,

be careful with your words, dalit, she said as she brought down the beating stick,

the pain like a cold bath in the allahabadi winter,


and all you ever wanted to do was heal —


     III.         detritus (n.): organic matter produced by the decomposition of organisms.


and now you clutch the letter pressed tight into your palms, declaring

you to be a medical student, an escape, an escape — 

i study the pool of wrinkles and ripples and scars

across your face; hear the whisper of knowledge diffusing in and out of your veins,

the humanity pressed and folded between your brittle shoulders. i feel my fingers shiver, 

then burn as i put them on your shoulder consolingly, an illegal moment of intimacy.

be careful, dalit, be careful.



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