“those girls”

Meher Manda


every heartbreak is particular but common       that much you know       holding your

body close     the way ma taught you       the way you see women comfort themselves

in the movies     alone        after scenes of heavy pecking       and gyration      you learn

quickly   you have figured out        this is home    even if         this is no home        India

they tell you       is a mother        is a country that prays    to your image      is beholden

to       you              you know this is not true      you know how this home        undresses

you with eyes      in the years that have unspooled     between your first breath       and

your latest undertaking   you have heard the horror stories     of live women and once-

women          all maimed in similar ways       you have heard the voice           of your ma

speak of those girls     those girls who did something unimaginable        or maybe said

something once         and nothing is the same since       those girls who loved someone

and walked away with insurgent love in their hearts           or maybe they offered their

bodies     with permission        or maybe they said to an elder                     NO              or

maybe         those girls wore heartbreak on their sleeves                          sipped on loose

cigarettes           with bitten, swollen lips          and wore their scarred faces in full view

their arms glistening with empurpled bruises   a shameless display of private violence

or maybe all they did                was laugh it all off              as if all of home was audience

to their laughter                or was it crying                maybe it was tears         maybe it was

sobbing       chest beating       ground thumping           and guttural wails that good girls

don’t make      or maybe it was the impunity         with which those girls       walked and

talked and sat and stood and dressed and asked and challenged and berated and loved

and hated and dismissed and misrepresented and appropriated and festered      maybe

it was all of it        you know            so you hold your body close                 lest it slip away

to become a dangerous thing      you learn quickly       like the time     you are with your

ma            and one of those girls       walked toward you        laughing      or was it crying

or was it just breathing         you’re not sure       but you saw how she arrested the home

how all wandering eyes paused at her feet           how everything              even this planet

ceased to move          for her        and how lonely she looked        carrying on        and you

swear to ma you felt nothing        but you know you heard your heart break only in that

particular way          of glass crashing from great height       or a body swept up by water

or a noose snapping the neck in two         that unretractable end from which there is no

coming back


Meher Manda is a poet, short story writer, culture critic, and educator from Mumbai, India, based in New York City. She earned her MFA from the College of New Rochelle where she was the founding editor-in-chief of The Canopy Review. She is the author of ‘Busted Models,’ a chapbook of poems from No, Dear Magazine and Small Anchor Press in 2019. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Catapult, Peach Magazine, Hobart Pulp, Epiphany Magazine, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere.Speaks. Her poems have appeared in RHINO, The Pinch, DMQ Review, Salt Hill, and Quiddity. She lives in the Upper Midwest.