Vidya Panicker


Your nose twitched when I bloomed before you— the unwanted flower that smelled like a corpse.

Some corpses do not reek. My grandmother’s was the odor of sandalwood paste and saffron. I hugged her motionless form again and again so I would smell the same way too. But I remained what I always was, as ugly as a week-old cadaver, the sort that made people pull out their handkerchiefs or grab the dangling tips of their sarees, to pinch their nostrils and to suck in air sparsely through their mouths which gratefully is alien to the sense of smell.

Your nose continued to twitch, but you did not quit. You flew down on me like a giant beetle, and for a while, we both remained oblivious to the smells and the sounds. But later, after my petals were crushed and pedicel snapped, you were repulsed.

Not by my unwarranted emotional outburst.

Not by the single tear drop that emerged from my left eye when your lips brushed against mine.

Not from my malodorous sweat that made your skin glisten in the dark.

But from the smattered light yellow dust from my filaments that ruined your expensive bed covers.

You called me a traitor. You called me filthy. You called me a leper who infects pink, healthy people.

I had wilted by the time you stuffed the bed sheets into the washing machine, considering for several minutes which of the three input compartments took the detergent, settling with a full spoon each into all the three, and the cloth smelled too strong of the powder for weeks thereafter.

Unknown to you, my dust would remain.

Unknown to you, as you sleep on the same sheet night after night and each time the faint hue of yellow would grow larger and visible, into the shape of the flower I must have reminded you of, etching me onto you.

Unknown to you, you would carry me on you as a carnation that touches the tender skin of your chest, which after a full cycle of seasons, would bloom once again.

Based in the God's own country of Kerala, India, Vidya's poems have appeared in journals and magazines including The Feminist Review, So to speak, As/Us journal, Shot Glass Journal, Aberration Labyrinth, Switched-on Gutenberg, Halfway Down the Stairs, New Verse News, Bangalore Review, Brown Girl Magazine, and others.

home  • archives  • submissions  • us