Death in the Old Country

Most nights I wake up screaming, death
between my legs, bodies clawing at the gaps
in my teeth. I slather the walls of my stomach
in antiseptic and you teach me to peel
the burnt skin from my bones until I am loved.
I bite my cheeks waiting for the moon to pull
soft loam from paddy — maybe then you’ll water
me as you did my brothers. After school,
my skin ripens gold as I play outside. The boys drop
their cricket bats and whistle, as if every collapsing
star did not swallow me whole. Last night I dreamed
that the rice fields opened up, slackened my body
with dirt, smoothed the valleys of my hips
into flatlands. Mama, would you hold me then?
If my veins criss-crossed the sky at dusk?
If the crush of people in the market bruised
my neck purple? Remember once, you drowned
me for a day, held my face underwater until my mouth
crumbled. Instead, the cows graze sinew
from bone, and I die every new-moon’s eve.
These days are drumbeat, steady, the dull wind
of the rice mills over marsh. You dress the wounds
in my stomach lining with words and something
chemical: in the morning I look down at my hands,
practice scraping blood from beneath my fingernails.