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Libation for Mother by Saraswati Nagpal

Libation for Mother 

The kitchen’s where your words haunt me. 

In serene dishcloths. In steaming potatoes and 

warm daal freckled with mustard seeds. 

Stir like this. Mind your fingers. Always, ginger first.

A handful of curry leaves stops the clocks: fragrant 

spells to rekindle your voice,

I’m eleven again.

On dinnerplates I sail to our scent-laden past

resurrecting your aromatic meals—

You who clawed at domesticity

ladled your power in eloquence: honey of dissent,

gut-grown courage to leave the world 

altered momentarily. 

You who I am becoming,

in vivid cadence of genes,

molten echo of memory.

The scent of coriander rises, as if defiant. 

I am eleven and forty-one 

bathed in your sun-laugh ringing

in my kitchen.


There is a dissonance between domestic claims on a woman’s time, and the call of the larger stage where her wit and intelligence can shine. My mother was no stranger to this tension. Yet, all that time she spent in the kitchen: cooking, talking about the world to me, teaching me, is what’s left of her in me - flesh, bones, spirit.

Saraswati Nagpal is an Indian poet, a writer of fantasy and sci-fi, and a classical dancer. Her graphic novels are feminist retellings of epic Indian myths. Her work can be found in The Atlantic, Atlanta Review, Acropolis Journal & other journals & anthologies.


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