Three Poems from A Kind of Freedom Song

If women marry their fathers, do they also give birth to their husbands? [1]

Walking into fire— of course
that was stupid. But have you
never been there, so in love
you cannot spot violence?

Abandonment is easy,
a brother’s message, a waiting
carriage, no room for conversation.

What hurt:
The demand I raise my sons
to be good kings. I dreamt only
of human boys, good husbands.

What hurt:
I raised sons like him, bloodthirsty
eyes following unknown father
to homes they’d never lusted for.

What hurts:
Three thousand years of this
story, and he is still god.


There is No Bhadra in this Kali [2]

This isn’t a red carpet. It is a tongue
rolled out in your welcome. Home
is seven steps away. Re-enter,

if you choose, but through the mouth.
(Do you dare to walk through? Do you
trust you will not be chewed to bits?)

Watch these pink corners curl in dryness
and disgust. They remember your throbbing,
your silence, each blood-drop turning demon.

This tongue is a mocking of gentle
devotees, a knowledge of hard flesh
against lips, the only destruction

worth memory. I lied. It isn’t
a doormat. But it is red, still.


Yashodhara’s Enlightenment

Do you remember me still bleeding
while you fled, our son still learning
to cry? The gods, they say, silenced
your horses’ hooves. Seven years
of silence. Yellow robes, stone floors.

The son gurgling, asking, falling, giggling,
walking, upright and doubled over, prince
without king, infant without father. I, alone,
with his fears; you, alone, with your need
for something that outlasts us.

You ran with your pain, I stayed
with mine. This is the meaning
of parent. The world remembers
your Bodhi tree, mine was the harder
enlightenment: tight chest, whole eyes.

Siddhartha, we could have been more
than guilty desire, love cannot be
the opposite of faith. Give me your hand.
This matters. You are kindness now,
and forgiven. But I am my own refuge [3] .

  1. Jump Up The narrator of this poem is Sita, wife of the Hindu god Ram, who was made to walk 1 through fire to prove her chastity after she had been rescued from her kidnapper, and later abandoned by Lord Ram due to malicious gossip even though she passed this purity test.
  2. Jump Up Bhadra-Kali, worshipped particularly in South India, and translated as »good Kali« or »decent Kali,« does not stick out her tongue and is considered a relatively graceful form of the goddess.
  3. Jump Up »I am my own refuge« is reportedly the last thing that Yashodhara said to her husband, Gautam Buddha, the night before she died.