Jai Jai

May I have a Kali design? I ask the henna artist.
She stares hard at me
nods
traces a cool
stinging
design on my forehead.
I hope your husband does not cheat, she says.
Maa takes care of her devotees, she says.
Maa does not like unfaithful men, she says.

My husband doesn’t cheat, I say, and my sister agrees.
The artist dabs honey and lemon juice on my forehead
sealing Maa inside me
and stares into my eyes
a warning, a plea.
Jai Ma, she says.

Jai Ma.

The design flakes away over a day and leaves behind
A faint brown tattoo and a bindi she lovingly added for
Five dollars more.
At home, my husband kisses me
The design fades over a week
And the bindi sloughs away.
But the eye remains
Closed but watching.

My sister’s design
love and focus and calm and peace
Burrows into her hand, and when her husband kisses her
It flares in the dark
And when her husband kisses another
It sputters and dies.

But the eye

opens.

He leans into me for a chaste hug
My forehead cracks wide
And a scream sweeps past him and through him
And into him and clutches him with a thousand hands
And drags him closer to my lolling tongue and
my blazing eyes and I

Swallow him, screaming and whole.

I dance where he had lounged with roving eyes
and roving thoughts
and roving hands
And my forehead stings and smells of lemon honey.

Jai Ma.

[Kerry-Leigh Grady writes: I am a published author with a horror short story at Dirge Magazine and a romance novel releasing this month. The final issue of Pangaia included my article “At the Left Hand of the Goddess.”]

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