Dear Mama

You told me I was born to be loved.
That I clawed out of the womb like a wild
thing, slick with my father’s breath
and the first smell of rain.
We were alone, you and I,
woven into one another,
limbs trembling like sky before storm.
At night, you taught me
that men were mountains
as we curled up in Everest’s maw.
Coiled your fingers through mine,
weathered water on pearl; explained that the grooves
in my palms were ley lines, my eyes streetlights
igniting wasteland.
The valleys of your hips were carved by rivers.
So, open your mouth, catch the monsoon
like a lightning bug —
the watered are never broken.
When the rains arrived,
we danced until we drowned,
watched as our sisters’ headscarves
disappeared between pooled lesions.
Remember the rain, like gunshots,
bell-tied ankles jangling in the crossfire.
We forget now, in the dim light of dawn,
how we flinched at thunder, cowered
in mountain’s shadow, wept on the swollen
tongue of a beast untamed.
Mama, you watched me grow
legs and cross an ocean. You swore
it wouldn’t rain here, but my eyes are smoked
with water. Mama,
forgive me, as I gaze slack-jawed
into the mouth of a behemoth.
You told me I was born to be loved.

Nikita Bhardwaj is a high school senior from New Jersey. She is an Iowa Young Writers’ Studio student whose work has been recognized by NCTE, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Pulitzer Center, and others. She enjoys volleyball and long walks in beautiful places.