I am a green lantern on this humid april night, draped in
gold-threaded banarasi, folds pressed into my abdomen.
I carry my pleats like a bag of groceries, in and out
of a tata sumo, up and down the stairs of the wedding hall.
Guests eat meat on sticks and slurp cold drinks, chatting
and laughing outside. I laugh with them, pretending to understand.
A woman with big bindi passes and smiles, with red lips, round face
and kohl eyes. I notice she holds no sword, possesses only two arms.
Photographers crawl their way through the rituals, big backpacks
in the corner, as the air fills with smoke from a sacred fire.
Babies gurgle and girls take selfies. I sit quietly and watch,
green and gold as a lantern on a dark night.
Downstairs the house is carpeted with sleeping bodies, upstairs
relatives are still talking and waving away mosquitoes. In our room
a net has magically appeared.
The bride, saying goodnight, calls me didi and hugs me tight.
Sister-in-law, I’ve never had one before. I hug her back
in a language that is also mine.
I am woken early and led to a pond, needed for my gender
in a final ritual. A neighbour hikes her sari and crouches,
waves a hand in the water creating ripples and ripples.
Touching the arm of a woman who touches the arm of a woman
we release a lit lamp into the water, agarbatti stuck into its banks,
planted firmly in the earth like I can only long to be.
We take the cobbled path back through the fresh new morning.
The mosquito net is still up. I crawl back into bed and slip into
a spectral sleep: inchoate, shapeshifting…
as if on the edge of becoming
ancient & complete.