When you dwell with betrayal, you will know she has a smell.
Not just on his skin which I have, of course, learned to put up with but in the constant potpourri in the parlour of his memories
years after she has cleared her stuff.
I find her sitting cross-legged on my sofa most days,
telling me how it’s a foot-bath he needs and not the gajar ka halwa with ghee I have sweated to make. She is often
in the wardrobe among shirts he doesn’t like to relinquish,
trying to tell me his taste in colours is something
I will never get. I wonder why she left.
She discreetly haunts birthdays, anniversaries, photographs,
all I do, an anaemic shadow of what she has already done better.
I find her hair all over pillows and duvets.
Under the shower, the soap smells of her.
My favourite jeans have suffered a rip.
Last week on the kitchen counter, she crushed
my red lipstick to bits. In the garden, she merrily
digs away at my confidence, shovelfuls of faith carelessly
swept aside to unearth suspicion. These dark circles under my eyes
will tell you how she incessantly haunts me nights through.
In the busiest of places, you will find her betting
on the happiness in my eyes. Even though
she left nothing behind she wants to know if I’ve a place
in his heart, if I have come across what she never got.
This morning when he left for work, I finally
brought out our hornet’s nest from the dark, stirred it
and invited her to tea. These nail marks on my skin
will tell you how hard she fought.
But I finally managed to pin her down.
This is her skin that I now wear. Examine carefully,
my eyes are coffee and hazelnut, my hips firm and round enough,
my lips full, hair soft, nipples taut, demeanour calm.
We have swapped histories. I have broken into her name,
put my voice through a sieve, even painted my brittle nails.
This night, I will effortlessly preside over his love in memory
as she vacuum-cleans the sofa, powders nutmeg and does his laundry.
Basudhara Roy teaches English at Karim City College affiliated to Kolhan University, Chaibasa. She is the author of two collection of poems, Moon in my Teacup (Kolkata: Writer’s Workshop, 2019) and Stitching a Home (New Delhi: Red River, 2021) Her latest work is featured in The Woman Inc., Madras Courier, Lucy Writers Platform, Berfrois, Gitanjaliand Beyond, Muse India, Teesta Review, The Aleph Review and Yearbook of Indian English Poetry 2020-21, among others. She loves, rebels, writes and reviews from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India.