Ellen Kombiyil

Birthday

We ate burgers bloody,
buns toasted in grease
& where teeth
split the meat, red
dribbled down our chins
onto the grass.
August & the ghost
moon shone w/out the sun
having set. Bees
pummeled my head
so I’d get up & run,
sit down again,
slather butter on corn,
get up, circle & duck,
hand slap thigh slap
foot. The buried cat
sprouted a raspberry
bush. Nothing with
thorns
mama’d said
but that bush was
an exception. My sister
sat calm when a bee
brushed her cheek.
Like a statue she said,
but the world
is a breathing place.
Tulips in sweet
freshness dropped petals,
& the inner eyes
of stalks stained fingers.
That night we whispered,
my sister & I,
through grillwork,
labyrinth of heating ducts
that connected us.
Our mama’s love cries
echoed through the house.
I’d baked a cake,
ransacked the cupboard
to cover it
in sugared hearts.
How good it was,
feasting like that
in the dark.

Ellen Kombiyil is the author of Histories of the Future Perfect (2015), and a micro chapbook avalanche tunnel (2016). She has read, performed, or taught workshops at Split This Rock, the Prakriti Poetry Festival in Chennai, the Raedleaf Poetry Awards in Hyderabad, and Lekhana in Bangalore, India. Recent work has appeared in diode, Muzzle, Plume, Pleiades, and The Offing. She is a founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a mentorship-model press publishing emerging poets from India and the diaspora. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Hunter’s MFA program, she currently teaches English at Hunter College.
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