Featured Poem • January 2015
The Nagini’s Night Song
Silver-stained surf my robe Liquid silk, my tears Trimmed in foam, so delicate A maharani’s discarded pearls. I wear them well How bright, how alien This sea breathes My skin, salt and seaweed Aphrodisiacs from other days I inhale Wretched mortal lungs! Weave my breath With crashing tides. O my heart, Strum your sitar strings, Call out the moon Sultry echo, silent song My sisters’ cries, faint, Forlorn, Forgotten, Dissolving now like sand Good daughters, all Meek as clams Twice as tender. My skin alone stretched too tight Over this cage Each bone a steel bar Crab shells litter lonely shores So, too, am I cast off, Remade Adrift, far from my house of gold And gems. Only the stars discern our patterns A pause between crashes A pause between breaths A pause between lives A single sigh— I pray the ocean swallow me whole Drowning is the sea’s way to fly Soon the sun will sweep away shadows Soon I must flee, Bearing memories of sleek muscled hips Interlocking scales Sensuous serpentine skin I gulp down grief Gone, my snake-woman’s tail Once wreathed in starfish and Sand dollars Traded away on a whim For frail mortal feet Shimmering skylines A miscreant’s faithless heart Kohl-dark ocean kisses my knees Salty juices, slick brine Trickling down my thigh— Thief! You who steal my breath!— Who stroke my sari with bold, wet fingers Who seep, unrepentant Into my flesh Bathed in moon, bathed in sea, What is left but To dance?
Shveta Thakrar is a writer of South Asian–flavored fantasy, social justice activist, and part-time nagini. She draws on her heritage, her experience growing up with two cultures, and her love of myth to spin stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames. When not hard at work on her second novel, a young adult fantasy about stars, Shveta makes things out of glitter and paper and felt, devours books, daydreams, bakes sweet treats, travels, and occasionally even practices her harp.
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