Refusing Rama

Mother gave birth to a crop
of root vegetables. Like a clay pot
she swelled, leaking me

to him who tilled the land
with blood and everything of mine.

Mother, quick, sow me back—
my husband is calling.

Subhashini Kaligotla
Subhashini Kaligotla is a poet and architectural historian of Deccan India. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Caravan, Drunken Boat, New England Review, LUMINA, and Boxcar Poetry Review, and in various recent anthologies of Indian and diaspora poetry. While a New Yorker by choice, she presently makes her home in Berlin, where she is an Art Histories fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien and at work on her poetry manuscript Bird of the Indian Subcontinent.
Note: The poet says: "Earlier versions of the poem included many more narrative details about Sita, the female protagonist of the Ramayana: from birth to her return to the earth. As I revised the poem, I cut away more and more until I honed it to a few images and a strong voice for Sita that is, I hope, both plaintive and defiant. It's that final act of defiance, her ultimate refusal of Rama after a lifetime of devotion, that I find interesting."