Dear O —

Vandana Khanna

Holding this torch for you is less than ideal.

My arms heavy as storm-soaked planks, and

you as warped burden I can’t seem to quit.

That distant horizon’s too far gone to see

the modest flicker of me, the one, lone

girl-flare amongst the gods. Nothing

to write home about.

All those sirens, pin-ups of myth,

pure distraction — are good at dousing

the home fires with glistening fins

and the damp magic of their hair.

You must think I’m not trying very hard

but love, every night in my room I spin

a basket of my worries, my melancholy

toughens with time, and in the morning,

I unwind its tinsel and twig, stash it

away from those Suitors, their eyes flat

as cold copper coins sewn into hems.

To be sure, my bed is a preoccupation.

The old maid in me prefers my own counsel —

no one who tries to touch my cheek, who

drinks all the wine from the barrels and brushes

past me with their hot breath a hellfire.

No one who presses me against the damp

walls of the cellar and professes accident.

I could raise a white flag, swing it to and fro

out my tower window. Hope for rescue.

Girl trapped by destiny. I’d light the whole

house on fire if I thought it would burn

this cold loneliness from my bones.

And you, the one who forgot to fan

the flames, I must know — which

narrow strait will you cross to get to me?


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