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Sethuraman, Sandhya, rotting ripeness

SETHURAMAN, SANDHYA

Sandhya Sethuraman
Age: 16, Grade: 10

School Name: Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Educator: Kim Airoldi

Category: Poetry

rotting ripeness

mango juice drips in a stream that smells of ripeness  
blistering heat licks the remains, it
burns, sears, engulfs my
1. half-bitten bloody skin (mosquitoes eat me first) 
2. tan that makes me look new (you say, i am what you want to be) 
3. henna on calloused feet—
yes, american friend, we put it there too
and in our hair so that it glows ebony and crimson and falls out in thick locks 
instead of your sad yellow ones 
we paint peacocks and culture
laugh behind closed doors at your fading skin as we rejoice in a bath of jasmine and olives and 
tender ganges water 

your nose scrunches when we tell you 
we grnid henna fresh so our blood mixes with the plant 
fulfillment comes in a bowl of kheer in the sweltering august heat with the cotton plants
(yes they were ours first) 
littering the doormat 
but how dare we expect you to work for your own crop 

smell of dusk and incense when we say the evening prayer in a language that doesn’t
fear god, as yours does    
play a game of parcheesi—
“classic game of india” that you butcher before it even leaves your mouth 
you know the cows are meant for herding home 
(they can only travel the board once before they die) 
not for devouring with too much red wine
your hissing tongues bloom with fresh sin

chew softly or we will bite you instead 
we revel in your rotting ripeness