by a sex couching 
me since I turned 

accepting no!s grew 
effortless as 
soaking impurity

into napkins
I hear the aarthi bells 
ring a chiaroscuro 
injustice clotted 

in the toilet-
no kunkum for me,
god knows there is 
enough red!
in a blazing 

God knows?


A canopy of umbrellas ungreets me
in your back garden, somewhere a gate

screams for oil hinging on lost years. Rusted
keys quieten in my pocket,

not fitting a new hole

illicitly with excuses. In another world, bells
peal into rings with invisible cracks, shimmering

on jaded eyeballs of the woman who did not
attend. Did not RSVP. Did not exist? Perhaps, 

time had locked her 

intuition with unheeded prophecies. Last

night, you cried of 
dandruff on antlers, wandering trousers, second class 

train tickets to the moon, being
trapped in my dream, nobody woke but I

had hoisted those umbrellas during
a petrified 4am drenched in sweaty palms

No one else to smile a litany
of reassurances; the sun would rise again,

I would need shade again, or sunscreen

SPF 99 to shield us from your burn.


Tell me who he is, gasping 
                   for light with a thirst 
                                                          so unquenchable
                   even a million suns cannot drench 
                                                  in enlightenment
does he not realize your diamond 
                                      heart shines 
in his grief with a passion
                                              that could kill?
        not him.
                       never him.
He shall not mourn the shattered 
only fleetingly bask in the glory 
of their
                brilliance to burn 
                                                  other virgin souls.

Poetry by Anuradha Rao

Anuradha Rao’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Journeys, Inspired by Tagore, Cake Magazine, Peace, The Literary Nest and Women Artists’ Datebook. She is a recipient of the Wingword Poetry Prize, awarded to 33 talented young poets in India. She enjoys contemporary fiction, and is currently based out of Chennai. 

Context for "Stained": In many parts of India even today, menstruating women are not allowed to enter temples or participate in religious activities.

aarthi: a prayer offered to god       

kunkum: a red powder applied on the forehead, associated with sacredness