Content Warning: Abuse, Sexual Assault

Ironically, researchers find the “cuddle hormone” apparently plays a role in sparking violent behavior toward one’s romantic partner.

— Pacific Standard


Count back until it tingles on tongue, cellular memory
of the incident, crushed like the carapace
of a silent insect: the stranded
sequence of consequence.

You’re too shy,” he said, “wear that love on your hips, smeared
with the sindoor blood of belonging.” Thaali thudding
on chest, I ran down the rock-hill barefoot
in the dark. Did I tear, did I tear?

I know every re-telling is orthogonal, edges kneeling at right angles.
Compliant co-variants threading my tongue
with tridents to appease a demigod.
“Keep still. Smear holy ash
to stop the bleeding.”

Quilted questions: Did you dance in front of the deity?
Writhe in a Yantra of powder colors with thighs
splayed too wide to contain a mudslide.
Were you Radha or Sita?
A raslila.

No one asked me why, only how. “How could you, how did you.” I answered
with my amygdala cracked open like a beach almond
on their altar stone. Placed a mirror image of
the blatant bulge of a conch-flower near
their faces. Let it rub against their
version of the story. Labia
open, the fuchsia

Caressing their flat palms and not the other way around. The root
of shame squared. Yes, he fucked me without warning.
I wasn’t a temple, three days after the sin
of my blood had dried. I turned into a jagged
stone braced for the thrash
of soiled laundry.

Prove it wrong. He slid the skin off a tamarind twig.
Slick lashes landed like white-footed ghost
ants scurrying on skin. Welt after welt
he said, “you wanted it, you
wantoned it.”

Listen. Rivers swallow riverbanks without warning, still a Mukkutti root
knows how to thrive underwater. The red of flooded
silt is strong in me. Let it find a home down-river
where a goldsmith hammer can mold
my marital necklace to a teardrop
earring for my unborn

Go to the origin of replication. Viscous slurry of events. Inter-cellular
retellings dead-knotted to a mildewed underskirt around
my waist. His footsteps in the dark, the potholes
of my mouth. Torn pallu of old wedding sari
underfoot, I keep running. The rough zari
licks my flayed underbelly, telling me,
I must reverse-transcribe this
sequence of silencing.



Note: This is an acrostic poem using the amino acid sequence of oxytocin: