my grandmother this pile of bones
rising off the pyre like the death throes of
a soldier
left in her will all the
antiques she guarded all her life with her life
to my aunt—
on her deathbed she summoned the
sons and daughters haunting the old house
where the zamindar once brought her home
a new bride
and told them she wanted the bed
with the brass head-stead and the ceiling
mirrors to be burnt
along with her, and the rest—

the thirteenth century relics of cobwebbed teak
sweet-smelling, camphor-scented grief-scented
drawers with jewels hidden among
velvet moths and silk spiders
shining in the moonlight—
her daughter must take them away
from this house where the zamindar coughed blood
into the shoulder of his last wife;
the aunt in question pawned the bronze idols
of Gods before the pyre
was cold
sold the gold
and melted the silver into bowls for brahmins

the men were upset, naturally—

the will said nothing about the house
or the orchard of oranges that never
took to flower after the baby was drowned and
they squabbled over some
square inches while ma and I partners-in-crime
sneaked off into the cold bedroom
to lie in the bed one last time
and stare into the mirrors on the ceiling—
where dead women lay naked and bruised like silences
curled into commas around each other
as though going to bed after a long day
and their whispers so loud, for whispers
were grateful but
ma held me tight suddenly and hurled a silver spittoon
at the mirrors with a crash the heavens opened
and, drenched in glass rain, we set fire
to the bed not
caring when the curtains caught or
the oakwood doors with european trimmings
dissolved spectres flying past them

the men were furious, naturally—

house gone, everything of value, gone;

my aunt, my mother and I alone know which antiques
my grandmother had guarded from us,
secrets, like statues and griefs
passed down from daughter
to daughter
until they are burnt

until there is nothing left
to inherit.