pehr

Sandhya Ganesan

Sunnyvale, CA

Notre Dame High School

Poetry

CAS for Database

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:

mother —


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.


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This piece will also be published in the forthcoming Issue 12 of Body Without Organs.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

“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