By Meghana Mysore
Inside the temple,
the people are insects,
scavenging on the sweetness
of the sacred, priestly honey.
Outside, a man relieves
himself on the embroidered
exterior of the divine dwelling.
a place of gathering
in the presence of an unreserved
and adoring god.
This is where
the sinners come
to relieve themselves of immorality.
Whence the holy payasam**
is poured onto their chests
and into their mouths by the revered priests,
they may taste true liberation. Something
in the payasam, in the dripping ghee, in the thick,
condensed milk, will free them of their burdens,
will swallow their sins whole.
A woman shoves me forcefully
to get to the front of the line,
her antennae twitching in rage.
She leaves behind a faint
indentation in the shape
of her fingernail on the skin
of my left hand,
the hand I am not supposed
to eat with,***
or else I will be frowned upon
and will not reach
I wonder if the mark
will ever fade
from my hand.
if she’ll be saved faster now that
she’s pushed her way ahead,
as I stand in a line,
a line much too long,
waiting for a god,
a god much too slow,
in the village that preaches righteousness,
in a village that breeds madness.
*Mantralayam is a village in the Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, India. People travel to Mantralayam to exonerate themselves of sin.
**Payasam is a South Asian rice pudding consisting of boiled rice, milk, sugar, cardamom and cashews. It is commonly served in temples, especially in Mantralayam. It is customary to wait in a line to receive the payasam.
***It is considered morally wrong to eat with one’s left hand in India. One must only eat with his/her right hand so as not to be reprimanded by God.
Meghana Myesore is a senior at Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Burningword Literary Journal, Eunoia Review, Crashtest, Canvas Lit, VoiceCatcher, The Noisy Island and more, and she is the recipient of several Gold Keys from Scholastic Art & Writing and an Honorable Mention from the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest.