i’ve always wanted children / at first / sons / sons are less likely / to inherit my mouth / stuffed full of cotton balls / slicked with gasoline / tongue clipped & hung / on a clothesline / waiting for a matchstick / a hose / a body to slip back into / i thought / i could clad sons in an armor / built of my bones / tie their wrists with / yagnopaveetham woven from veins / sew the gayatri mantra / onto the roof of their mouths
maybe / i believed / i could raise / honeysuckle sons / with sugarcane limbs / their sweat would taste / like rose water & jasmine / their blood / condensed milk & clove / with sons / i hoped / i could rest easy / because / with daughters / i will come undone
split at the spine / daughters will inherit the fire / i’ve always swallowed / kept tamed / in the pit of my belly / they will / like kali maa / emerge from my forehead as / my wrath / bathed in blood / striped red & brown / crimson glistening under moonlight / tiger skin / a mark of their mother
i know / sculpting shields is a waste of time / so i will carve spears / from clavicle / crown them with a wreath / of cervical vertebrae / my daughters will wear / a garland of my lungs / strung together / with braided strands of dark hair / i cannot raise them to be / like me / to be like a mother / whose hands shake / like hummingbird wings / a blur of body / undeserving of holding / life / like theirs
let me offer them / instead / chambers of my heart / sliced into thirds / laid atop red hibiscus & lentils / if they press into tender muscle / their fingers will stain with / me / i suppose / i fear daughters / because / i am / an unsteady stack of organs / masquerading as / lethal weapon / unrelenting fury / when really
i am nothing but / paper & ink / flammable & temporary / a vessel to bring them into / this world / who / upon giving birth / may very well / shudder & shatter / into ash
"i am unfit to raise daughters" was first published in Mid-American Review Vol XLI.
JESSICA NIRVANA RAM is an Indo-Guyanese first generation daughter of immigrants. She is a poet and essayist. Jessica earned her MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and her BA from Susquehanna University. Her full length collection, EARTHLY GODS, is forthcoming with Variant Lit in 2024.