That night in the temple, when he hurt her,
the asps found her ravaged, her hair tangled;
they buried their tails into her scalp
as tree roots sew into earth and soil.
They kept her safe from his sea, enthralled her,
and pointed with their tongues to her escape.
They guided her through meadow and forest
to a quiet cave high atop a cliff.
She crafted many fires there in the dark
to burn away his smell and cleanse her skin.
The snakes whispered their scent into her ear;
she bathed in their musk to make it her own.
When she lay down and closed her eyes to sleep,
their thin bodies would move beneath her neck,
soothe her like a mother’s hand when she cried,
nudge her awake when they smelled men coming.
Sweat and salt, their swords stunk of sex and violence.
Each man shuffled into her cave and wept;
they beheld her strange face, and with one look,
they stiffened and turned into cold granite.
The asps watched as Medusa chiseled off
each penis, felt the weight of them in her hand,
walked to the cliff, threw them into the sea.
You live a banjara life for him
pack your saris and kurtas into squares
swatches of orange, gold, and blue fold them
into a new place, but not for too long.
You leave your home and your temples,
wear the threads given to you,
and never take off your mangalsutra.
He follows not far behind your shoulder
dresses in tans and grays like a cloud;
his body cloying like old chamelee oil.
Ten years and more, still he will not
lie under your sunshine and rest.
hands cover the earth
in a cage of skin
don't bear your guns
but carry with us
our heavy arms
stretch up say shoot shoot
we're ready when it arrives
the end will feel breathless
like a horned beast
that punctures your faith
music plays down the street
lights flicker overhead
women scream for their babies
their boys their sweet boys
forks and spoons
on the table set for zero
the neighborhood lit up with
faces watching from windows
no hearts beat in a street of death
so many bodies lined up
like notebook paper
zippers close over
a leg a chest a face
all of them beautiful boys
three-hole punches in their stomachs
blossom into numbers
too many to count
daily weekly they bloom
more and more on new boys
they lay upon the death slab
asphalt the color of violets
their skin encloses them
like a sealed casket