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Volume 15

Fables and Folklore - Fall 2015


Roshani Chokshi & Kavitha Rath

Written by
Roshani Chokshi & Kavitha Rath

Roshani Chokshi writes fantasy with an Asian twist. Her work has been published in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, The Feminist Wire and Book Smugglers. Her debut novel, THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN is an Indian Young-Adult fantasy and will be published by MacMillan/St. Martin's Griffin in May 2016. ///////////// Kavitha Rath has lived in Atlanta, Chennai, and London, and is currently in Washington, DC. Her poetry has appeared in New Asian Writing and Indian Review, and is forthcoming in The Bangalore Review and Danse Macabre.


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Mahabharata’s Silent Women Speak


The following is an excerpt from the Papercuts print edition.

You are at the foothills of a long destroyed temple, now veiled with moss and lichen. You see fragments of the Mahabharata wrapping around the soapstone and granite edifices — an elephant with a raised trunk, deities with jutted hips, quiet and mythic. A handful of stone bodies lean out of carven niches, they watch you pass, whispering silenced stories that no one has heard in years. Invisible miasma reaches out, pierces you. Through you, they find their voices. You live in their stories now.

The Sacrifice: Madri

Oil lamps hover at your feet,
carved in stone at this temple abode.
From the perch, you know the story,
and see all lives past, present, and future.

The flames lick up from the slick liquid pool,
tease the rose petals, clench your heart,
send waves of shock to wrench your body.

This love, incendiary,
ignites your incandescent desire,
the tendrils shape into a ghost of Pandu,
wicked flame tempts you to ascend.

You live in a fire-dream,
mortified in the moment between
his forbidden touch and
your diamond-hot white kiss,
where he lies like a still-life, dead in your arms.

These tourists that traverse the rubble,
set up camp by the edge,
play games in the forest,
hardly knowing the exile of your lives
that force you onto your husband’s pyre,
into an oxidized sacrifice.

You lose your taste
for games of dice, chariots, and war,
you climb onto his inflamed body,
and leave behind your sister-wife
to guard over your unearthly twin boys.

Sons of sunrise and sunset,
double orphans in a callous world,
but you see their deaths in your eyes,
envision the end before the beginning
across the expanse of eternity.

This life reduces you to an object
melted over wood,
smoldering rainbow fire and cinders.

The poem forgets you are half cloud and water,
living water and air –
You come and go from these ruins,
rise to the skies at the edge of the red horizon,
for an immortality richer
than the lives of princes like him.


The complete version of Mahabharata’s Silent Women Speak will appear in the print edition of Papercuts Volume 15.



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