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ode to mehendi

Uma Menon

my sister etches a secret into my hand with the tip
of an arrow dulled by years of heartache so it

presses gently to a point at the furrow of my hand
here at the corner of my palm anger bows down

to the burning red of mehendi seeping from her
forehead in the patience of years forming

a fox-feather in the web between my knuckles
she holds my hand close to her face telling her

heart-child something that she cannot tell me
i keep my hand pressed against foiled lace so not

to wrinkle a design so not to ball up in remission
at my mother’s feet with nothing but a child’s

dream in hand what if i wasn’t an only daughter
firstborn lastborn tracing mehendi into

my own hand late dark nights over the silent
reading of an english newspaper now this

curdled buttermilk leaking through my fingers
grazes my hand so differently from the cone

in my sister’s hand that i wonder if an arrow
has wicked and left my mind

Uma Menon is a fifteen-year-old student and writer from Winter Park, FL. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, and IRIS, among others. Her first chapbook was published with Zoetic Press in January 2019 and she was recently named National Winner of National Poetry Quarterly’s High School Poetry Contest. Uma is also a nationally-ranked debater and an activist for marginalized groups.