I Wore Lipstick to your Funeral
- Shruti Rao

So, today when your mother
asked me in her measured
language of paper plates and napkins
(no spoons for murderous women),
whether I had any amount
of decency left in me
I almost caved in.

I almost told her how we
typhooned into each other's worlds
charting tumour progressions,
our second base, radiation.
How in the rare moments
of consciousness mine was not
the name you called out for.

The tiny cuts that my
nervous teeth made on my lips
I hid behind the lipstick,
a sparkling red fortress,
holding back cart loads of facts
threatening to break through,
little men desperate for pilgrimage.

But you had makeup on in your casket
and I wore lipstick to your funeral,
so instead I beamed a foolish smile,
flashing morse code into that
hostile swarm, your family -
three dits, three dahs, three dits.

The blob of grey pudding jiggled
under her loaded glare, soaking
through the tissue onto my fingers
that didn't fumble when you asked
to be let go of,
and in this world, her world
where there is no deliverance,
I am entirely spoonless.

Shruti Rao is a literature postgraduate from JNU, working as an editor in a children's publishing house. She is a poet and reviewer, published in various national and international literary journals. Trashy cinema, literary theory, pop culture, horror and tea keep her happy.