During Catholic mass in St. Xavier’s Church,
the priest places a wafer, a flake of skin,
on my tongue as coolly as smoke rings ejected
from a murderer’s mouth. Their sacrament,
Reshma tells me singing, drags them by the hair,
or binds each limb to the bedposts, laid bare
like the silvery bottom of a mango leaf drowned
underwater, or with malarial kisses, marries them.
This sacrament is the knobs in their fingers,
knotted with the places buds have been
snapped off at the knuckles, now the bloom’s
about to break through like from rosehips.
As Reshma sings, “Jai. Jai. Jai,” she confesses
in her plastic chair beneath the chikoo tree,
her sacramental victory rises like a heart-lotus
flower, pale and mysterious, after sinking deep
into the murky waters of the mind’s own hell,
then, flowering as if to burst from the stem
of the throat, and opening into a white song
only the night lilies of Mumbai can hear.
Photo by Casey Stump