The blood on their hands

By Pritha Jain

you don't sleep the entire night,

the first time you notice your father talk over your mother at the dining table,

she forces her words down

her throat, a museum of everything deemed less important,

her mouth the graveyard of expressions that keep biting into the insides of her cheeks,

and you wonder if she ever retreats to the bathroom after, and spills them out in front of the mirror,

to make sure they're still there,

to make sure at least someone's listening,

and maybe that's why she's been having trouble sleeping lately,

maybe that's why she wakes up with the dreams she'll never see

tinging the crinkles of her eyes the lightest of purples and blues;


but how could you have known better when you were only seven at the time while everybody else at the table wasn't?


your remember your childhood as the mosaic of a 'culture' you wish to outgrow;

your grandfather shaming the emotions out of your brother, at eight; telling him to 'man up'; telling him he loves him in the same breath, never once realizing that the poor boy mistook oppression for affection, instead;

your grandmother not letting him in the kitchen at thirteen, saying it was a workplace reserved for women only;

at fourteen you're told you need to learn how to shut up your damn mouth, your brother, how he needs to learn to live out loud;

fifteen; you overhear your father telling your mother to ask you to change out of the shorts you're wearing,

him scavenging for a substitute to crying;

at sixteen, you are the tainted mirror images of the world looking back at its roots,

so you carve your bones into daggers,

the one way you wish you'd been taught to;



they'll be sharp enough to cut through


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