Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Anuja Mitra’s ‘the widow stands trial’

the widow stands trial

I’ll miss the attention,

that much is true.

the neighbours clutching

bags of flour at my door

as if all I could think to do

was eat. I appreciate the show

of sympathy, though of course

some hungers are larger

than that. winter bit like a dog

that year. I watched my breath

feathering the window

as our men prised

last life from the land, scouring

her cold cheeks for plunder.

funny: to them Mother Earth

is a harsh mistress

and not the first woman

we learned how to ruin.

but I digress — all this is just scenery

and you want to hear of the death.

see, severed from one husband

I wed Rumour in the night,

placed a band on my finger

and pledged to be his. now

my hand throbs pleasantly

as the villagers talk:

see how her face betrays

guilt not grief. she must have

done it. she must have

snapped.

much mythology there is

around the snap.

sometimes it happens

when you are slicing an apple

and a spider slinks out

from its bowels.

sometimes it happens

the third time he strikes you

(though rarely at moments

so climactic as that).

and sometimes it happens

alone in the fields,

hills pulled flush

against the gash of horizon

when something in you unlatches

and swings free like a gate

to some forbidden arch, some space

for the soul to surge through.

perhaps my story needs more

of a relatable flavour.

very well. to the judge

who asks how I plead,

I’ll say I’ve been pleading

all my life:

for some measure of grandness

to fill my wifely days,

some passion to slip through

the cracks of those hours

when I stood fishing ants

from the sugar.

a life for a life. his concluded

to make way for mine.

or so my accusers would say.

gentlemen of the jury, you must examine

my account; turn it round in the light

like some lovely old clock

whose hands you are not sure

you can trust.

there lies the question

you are asked to decide:

what unseemly things

have these hands seen?

let us put that to rest

as I did my good husband —

and while you deliberate

you may find me in the fields;

arms raised heavenward,

light catching my knife

like a smile.

Anuja Mitra

Anuja Mitra lives in Auckland. Her writing has appeared in TakaheMayhemCordite Poetry ReviewStarlingSweet MammalianPoetry Shelf and The Three Lamps, and will appear in the AUP anthology A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand. She  has also written theatre and poetry reviews for TearawayTheatre ScenesMinarets and the New Zealand Poetry Society. She is co-founder of the online arts magazine Oscen.

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