Valentines: Two Poems by Namrata Verghese

Green

The first time we kissed, you slipped a green lychee under my
tongue. The calloused skin cracked; sweet white flesh burst open like a sunrise.

Your lychee tree grew upside-down, flowering in my mouth, unfurling
In my throat, ripping through lungs, rooting, at last, in a dark, warm place.

I was eight when we came to this country. Back then, I spent long nights
Proofreading my father’s green card documents, which often seemed to me

More supplication than application—a plea to a cold paramour. A love letter.
A prayer. Once, green was a promise, not a ghost. Once, everything was yet

To come. A decade later, soon after that card came in the mail—underripe,
Fungus-green—you left. That day, I coughed up the lychee tree, vomiting

Soil & leaves & tangled roots. Wet green clay painted my fingernails. I scrub
At the scum of you until I scab; still, silt sticks between my teeth like memory.

Sex is no different from immigration, in the end—which is to say, we’re all just
Things coming undone: sour fruit, unanswered prayers, green rotting to brown.

Queer Gods and Other Myths

Arjun, archer, hero of the Mahabharata,
once became a woman as a divine curse,
hard body melting, curling, diaphanous
on the tongue. Spooked by his softness,
he fled to the forest. I wonder if he
caught his new reflection in the Yamuna River.
If he paused by the shore, sank to the sand.
If he tucked long hair behind a pierced ear,
and slipped his hands down to the wet.

About Namrata Verghese

Namrata Verghese is a writer and academic. Currently, she’s working on a JD and PhD in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Teen Vogue, Catapult, Hobart, The LA Review of Books, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @namrataverghese.