If I pressed my ear up
against the cold walls of this temple,
I could hear a murmuring of voices,
all the whispered prayers of
trapped inside here.
It is a one-sided conversation.
An unrequited love.
My parents tell me that the deities are supposed to
watch over us,
grant us our prayers,
and drive away evil.
omnipotent, many-armed deities.
Everything is in their will.
They say I should pray to Laxmi for wealth,
to Saraswati for a good education,
to Ganesha for an obstacle-free life.
Each deity with its own duty.
The list is endless.
But these are just
lifeless, man-made statues.
They are idols.
They must be worshipped.
Pray to them.
And then comes the food.
A palmful of dried golden raisins.
Holy water. Milk.
Apples. Bananas. Coconut.
But it’s just fruit.
It’s God’s fruit.
Touch it to your eyes.
The right eye.
Then the left.
I have circled here enough times
to understand the physicality of it:
heel and toe against cool tiles,
palms loose against each other.
I have faked faith enough times
to know how to shape my lips,
even if the words
are cold and bare of any prayer.
My defiance has made me weary.
The phrases that shape it have been
thrown against my parents so many times,
a weak wind against
I want my voice to sound loud and clear.
I want it to become something
a weapon to rattle loose my parents’ prejudices.
If I could I would have shoved by disbelief,
tooth and nail,
between my parents’ closed hands
so that they could understand that
I do not want to be here.
I want to be some place
where I don’t have to pretend
that a palmful of golden raisins
is something more than a
palmful of golden raisins,
where I don’t have to utter
empty prayers to statues that are
nothing more than statues,
where I am not forced to
put my faith into something
I don’t have any faith in,
where I am not scolded
for not believing,
for not understanding,
for not wanting to understand.
I don’t want to understand.
I want to be