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Nikita Bhardwaj

CAS for Database

Hillsborough, New Jersey, USA

Princeton Day School


Guns clenched between our teeth, bullets tucked

beneath muscled tongues, we speak in strained smiles

and kempt jaws. These shadows talk, so we sulk in the aftertaste

of pickled sorrow, gnaw our cheeks raw into submission. We’d sooner choke

down consonance than loosen our own tongues. At night

we polish casings with saliva and eulogize the men

who prune our lips thin of rosebuds. We

hurl our slippers at staircases, sob as fingers

pluck lemongrass from weed. Mama says

to stare into the sun before harvest: better blind as our sisters

meet scythe, deaf as they cry cleaved womanhood. The final

grace: our eyes skim stained-glass epiphanies in search of some

kindred history, find only parched bones and loaded cannons.

So in the dead of night, I confess

to my mirror: these shadows are not brave enough to hold

me. I make myself candle, burn through

my lips, slick like crosshairs. Make myself bird,

unfurled in wind, lament how you remain soft,

pressed into corners, smoked skin molded

to your vessel. I know the lies you sing yourself to sleep,

the sisters’ screams that crack your lips,

the bullets rattling up the back of your throat. How you long to

smile wide, take aim, and fire.

This piece was previously published in the Parentheses Journal, January 2021.


At the heart of "Harvest" is something raw and bodily, moving and violent. It contrasts a sense of constricting conformity with a desire to break free, and it'll send chills down your spine as it unearths something wholly powerful.


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