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blood of the covenant // water of the womb

CAS for Database

Anoushka Swaminathan

San Carlos, CA, USA

Carlmont High School


blood of the covenant // water of the womb

i let their voices wash over me,  

laying side by side on the side of 101 south  

beside me is a makeshift altar,  

crushed by the wayward california winds and stained red by a small animal’s snapped leg 

one of us whispers a secret into the air,  

a confession  

the rest start up a chorus,  

and tell her to shout instead  

there is no sin in our love 

a car passes by, so fast i can hear it repeat after it leaves,  

and the whoosh of it reminds me of a candle 

lit in the temple and offered  

to those cold gods doused in paint and our oh-so-human sacrifice 

not human sacrifice as a human cut and given,  

but human sacrifice, sacrifice as the most human thing to do, a human sacrificing for faith

the boy nearest me says 

sometimes he feels choked, because he doesn’t know 

if he should be allowed to live 

and sometimes he thinks 

he should choke himself and do the world the mercy  

i tell him,  

we do not breathe as sacrilege,  

but as a near-holy thing  

shouldn’t any life be a blessing? 

and he is the best of us,  

the holiest if we dare use those words 

later, from across from me, they say,  

let’s play a game 

so we pick up where we left off the day before: 

truth-dare, red-green flag, fuck-marry-kill 

a giggle rises up at someone’s answer, and we knock shoulders all around  

one by one by one until we’ve all twisted near in half,  

tasting dirt and burned gas and still grasping each others’ hands 

fingers trickling against wrists like water or blood,  

we make our own religions


How do you reconcile divinity and sin? How do you accept yourself when your community rejects your identity? Who do you call your blood when your water drowns you? I don’t have the answers, but I think “blood of the covenant // water of the womb” does. A beautiful exploration of religion and queerness, this piece is a must-read.


Anoushka Swaminathan (they/them) is a queer Indian-American 9th grader from Northern California (stolen Ramaytush Ohlone land). They love reading all genres, but primarily write contemporary romance, horror, and sci-fi, as well as poetry. Their work has previously been published in Ice Lolly Review, YAWP Journal, Ink Drinkers Magazine, The Lumiere Review, and Writopia Labs' anthology We the Free, among others, received a silver key from the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, and is forthcoming in Polyphony Lit and a poetry anthology from Sixteen Rivers Press. When not reading or writing— so barely ever— they dance, yearn endlessly, and dream in Technicolor.

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