Poetry: Sita Considers Her Rebellions

Vandana does something special here. Amidst the language of nature—the lush green forests, the stars, the twigs—this poem grips our bodies firm. Vandana finds space to bring in bones & tongues & the pulse of blood, & especially those hands. The reader always responds to hands. Especially when they are simultaneously covered with the mehndi and blood. This poem talks right to your body, as good poetry should.


She remembers from inside the story,
inside the forest’s heart (a flush of green):
a dowry of twigs. Tree trunks as thick as lies.

When she is allowed, she misses herself,
covets the clean corners where her bones
meet, the dull pulse of her tongue on his.

All those misplaced stars, a misery
she can’t find. She has killed things
(though it is forbidden) with her hands

(the wedding mehndi long-faded),
has eaten on the wrong day, forgotten
to fast. She has pulled the strings

of the jungle behind her like a black net,
a wide-mouthed yawn. She holds it tight
so it can’t grow when she isn’t looking.


This poem was first published in Guernica, October 15, 2015.


Vandana Khanna

Vandana Khanna was born in New Delhi, India, and attended the University of Virginia and Indiana University, where she earned her MFA. Her first collection, Train to Agra (Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry), won the Crab Orchard Review First Book Prize and her second collection, Afternoon Masala: Poems, was the co-winner of the 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in the New England ReviewThe Missouri Review32 Poems, and Prairie Schooner, as well as the anthologies Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the WorkspaceAsian American Poetry: The Next Generation, and Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry.

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