Notre Dame High School
the story is a simple one, in the end —
a girl of about nine years (or so i’d imagine,
the age was a detail i’d added myself) —
— a girl of about nine years
stands at a street corner and the air,
laden with copper hooks that turn white
and singsongy in the dawn light, roots
her to where she stands. a girl
has her mouth full and she
coats the roof of her mouth in manuka honey
and the girl turns a name on its side
with her tongue and lets it drip, drip, drip with
sweetness. for a second, the girl is
weightless, airborne by two syllables
and a drumbeat: an earthquake in the back
of her throat that brings her toes down to
the sun-warmed pavement. the girl swallows the name,
the girl lets it go to her head and carve itself
in the hollow of her throat —
— and in the end, the story doesn’t string itself
onto sunlight, doesn’t gleam suspended in
amber-gold honey. it burns itself out, wick-like,
and it drips, drips, drips, and the girl, well —
— and the sticky sweet honey dissolves bit by bit
and the street corner is traffic-jammed with passerby
and vendors shouting their wares shove her forward
and the air, pulled taut, unclenches its hold
and the girl walks home.
the name burrows itself into her throat, part
ache, part patient animal
settling in for the long winter.
the girl is not a girl anymore.
this is not a story anymore.
and in the end, it’s quite simple:
she tends to her father at his bedside,
braids her hair with jasmines every morning,
and as the sun sets, she is asked kindly,
a hand shoving gently at the small of her back,
to exchange the golden light through the slats
of her window and the familiar hum of restless
traffic and the newly bloomed chrysanthemums
and the sweetness at the back of her throat
for a twenty-four hour flight.
this is not a story. there is nothing poetic here,
she has told me so countless times. the cabin
of the boeing 747 was freezing cold.
the city colder still: fog-painted, sky blue and
unbroken. flowers only bloomed with fertilizer.
the insects kept their humming to themselves.
— is it alright if i add some color? a touch of gold?
this story is all bones. it isn’t mine,
except for the ways it is.
— cold, yes, and yet when the pink jasmines she planted
took root, she threw open the window and let herself
breathe. when her back bore the weight of her stomach
as it swelled with child, she let herself taste honey, a name
her tongue had not forgotten. hers until she bartered it for another:
the story is a simple one, in the end.
a woman stands at a street corner,
and a girl stands next to her.
i stand next to her and my mouth drips with honey,
and she says my name.
note regarding the title: the tamil word பெயர் (pronounced similarly to “pair”) means name.
This piece will also be published in the forthcoming Issue 12 of Body Without Organs.
“pehr” is sweet, it's sentimental, and it rings true. The story of a name transferred through a family is portrayed in a uniquely emotional light.
Sandhya Ganesan is a student from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has been recognized at the national level by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and appears or is forthcoming in Parentheses Journal, Body Without Organs, Blue Marble Review, and elsewhere. She studied fiction under Dana Diehl as a part of the 2020 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, and is the editor-in-chief of Saffron Lit. She will graduate in 2021. You can find her on Twitter at @sungslept.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR