A poem by Madhuri


we children are heroes


even after we are grown
lumpily, stretchingly
carrying our hearts before us
like precious birds’ eggs in our palms –

we are heroes
because forces tacitly against us
wanted to invade our little,
ghostly shapings
our sketchy biographies of form

wanted to swarm all over us
and squander us like loose seed
windblown into someone else’s garden
not caring that that other farmer
was a thief with bulgings of his own.
We were sent
out of the violent storm
in the Straits of Narrow

to a place where people wanted
to eat us, and hate us,
and rape us for their casual
curiosity, and leave our heads
on pikes
in every back alley you could name
– in every back alley you could name.

What was our infamy?
Only that we were new
and not yet stamped, or tromped upon
or branded with an arrow
appellation –

and so they wanted,
and barely restrained themselves
(which is as good as stamping)
or did not restrain themselves
and did all those grimy deeds
ate those fruits
and curdled them
between their hands
and menaced us with wells and walls
of sidling revenge.

And yet we survived, some of us –
and pulled ourselves into the bigger world
in spite of everything,
and faced our opposition
usually without knowing
exactly what it had in mind for us;
but our bodies knew

and they know still.
We are heroes
having come over the long hills
towards the sea
bearing those elders’ heads on plates
– for we cannot put them away from us,
lest they scatter, regroup
and march through the trees
behind us,

we have been faced with walls of devils
but we chose life
and came through the fire
burned, but incarnate –
bearing our broken hearts
before us in our palms.


Poem by Madhuri
Provence, Natsukashi retreat, August 2014

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