Prerana Kumar

Prerana Kumar

Legacy Story – Drape

The first time I saw Nani drape a saree,
tussar silk shrouding the ooze of each sorrow
was Mama for her brother’s wedding,
afterbirth scars silvering the gauze
dark honey with a red seam
pleat, a jugular fountain

            of women line their gums with saffron
            before worship, don’t spill about what palmful
            of neck a ruby might soil, it’s modest, Nani says

to hide how a body flays in some kinds 
of light, at least they see swaying, 
at least they see less wound

            Legend is that dancer Draupadi,
            who might have been slashed
            waist down by a hundred swords,
            was saved, cocooned into yards of velvet,
            woven from a kind god’s hands
            until he crumpled into her spinning
            and from that man god’s fingers
            the first tearing
            of her stitch

Isn’t this my first full drape at fifteen,
my papa clapping a table
as Uncle Ramesh said carve
up my wheat body if I look
at him wrong 

            Isn’t this a man in England asking
            what a pleasing skintone might blush like;

            answer purplemouth, amberspit,
            all those mudgirl colours,
            each darkness a kind of bruising
            to hide

the darker goats, led to the woods first
by ceremonial scarves, before their darker bleating
becomes meatwater in the air

            Blush not pink not pink my skin is not talcum
            soft for that shade

when asked if I’m north of the deccan
or south of the plateau, I say four languages
carve my waist-tuck

yesterday I soaked through my bandages
and giggled until all my anklets welted
in threads

            A daughter escaped the coast a story ago
            in her grandmother’s ribbons, when she dug out that first
            bow from the base of her neck, she found every family woman
            in the wound, pressed into knots between her bones

What is drape but imprinted memory?
I am backless every night,
pleating my grandmother’s leftover
body in windows,

I tell myself it’s for the view
not the fall

PRERANA KUMAR is a writer based in London. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and was shortlisted for The White Review Poet’s Prize 2022. She has been published in Magma, The White Review and Fruit among others.