At the end of every November,
astonias held bouquets 
for winter weddings.
Their sweet-sticky scent
spread far, and we believed
Yakshis lived in them

The old man who wrote
a hundred folktales scared
us with gory Yakshi tales.
Still, I quite loved the Yakshis
under the devil-tree,
their open
hair tumbling down like
their seductive smiles.

Draped in a mundu and clinging blouse
(like house servants),
they wore melons and flowers,
sheathing lust, revenge and desire
all over their skin.

I always wanted to snuggle
against their bosom
smelling of blood and left-over
male bones; as a child I wanted
to be loved by Yakshis,
nothing more.

These evenings, my house
is overwhelmed
by the perfume of wild astonia blooms:
they bunch up outside
my bedroom where I pen
men down
to their blood and bones.

Note: A Yakshi is a female earth spirit, accepted as a symbol of fertility by the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain faiths. She is usually portrayed as a wide-hipped, voluptuous woman, who can cause a tree to bear fruit simply by touching it with her foot.

BABITHA MARINA JUSTIN is an Indian poet, artist and an academic, whose poems and short stories were published in many international journals. She has published two poetry collections, Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills (2015) and I Cook my Own Feast (2019). She is waiting to debut as a novelist with her book, Sandpaper Memories (2020).