for Reshma Qureshi


Mustard flowers stipple the olive and emerald fields

as dusty buffalos wallow in shrinking mud pools.

Women wash pink dupattas and fading purple kurtas

and children hop and chase stone bits

on crisscrossed baked-brick courtyards.

The evening sky blazes tangerine as sister and I walk home

My brother (by law) and his three friends fence us off

on the lone pukka road. How dare you

talk to outsiders about ghar ke maamle?

The village watches as they hold aloft

a bag-ful of treacherous “water”, and stay silent

as I wrestle and twist to stave off the drops.

Each drop clings. And shreds.

And eviscerates—tissue, blood, web-like nerves

bares to the bone as my face melts.


The lights flash and cameras follow.

The delicate hair-pin irritates my scalp.

Yet I smile. And pose. And pout.

I pirouette and span my hips with my fists

as the cream gown—my first ever—clings

to every curve of me.



Jonaki Ray studied Chemistry and Computer Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and is now a technical editor based in India. She is perpetually striving for a balance between the world of science, which she studied and works in, and the world of poetry, which she has come to love. Her poetry was shortlisted for the 2016 Oxford Brookes University International Poetry Contest and longlisted for the 2016 RL Poetry Award. Her work has been published in India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore in journals like Silver Birch Press, Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, The Four Quarters Magazine, Kitaab, and The Lake, among others. In Spring 2016, she was a Writer in Residence at Joya:AiR, an inter-disciplinary residency program in Spain.

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2 thoughts on “Burn”

  1. This is such a relevant and beautifully crafted poem! The way you have presented patriarchal mindset of rural India indicates that you have observed things first hand. The other situation that you have presented is equally relevant.


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