Poetry

Beautiful Stranger
- Mrinalini Harchandrai

Her juices filled clothes

white as death, wanton

the wind came to sniff

these from the balcony

mustard oil she would scrub

into her scalp, over the years

yellowing her strand by strand

we stood around that body

looking for signs

of our grandmother inside it

in the crinkles around the eyes,

leftover flesh folds,

from pregnancies

slavering breadcrumb lips,

she lost us in her prescription

to calm nerves the doctor said,

on some days her babble

didn’t have its usual nerve

involving insults flung

with mother-tongue sting,

her reality was a rogue bogie

unhooked from ours

hurtling into the wilderness

where she’d bat invisible flies

hovering over the swampland,

her children watched over

their newest village infant

unsure about praying for release,

for how do you kiss goodbye

the empty coffin.

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Mrinalini Harchandrai is an independent copywriter and visiting faculty for copywriting at Ecole Intuit Lab, Mumbai. She has worked full-time for print and online publications like Elle, Architectural Digest and CNNGo.com. She was commissioned to write the biography of an Indo-Tanzanian freedom fighter. Her poems have been printed, performed and featured with visual art in India and abroad.