“Dear Payaswini,” by Aarti Rao

Aarti Rao


I found your recipe for gulab jamun
and I have some concerns


well first of all it’s almost diwali
and my husband raped me three weeks ago
your recipe calls for khoa but I don’t have any
and I have completely stopped crying


and why did I look for recipes online
why don’t I remember how to make this
have you ever had this problem
have you ever forgotten your own recipes


and if I use milk powder in place of khoa
will the jamun be too dry
will they fall apart in syrup
my children depend on wholeness


and what if I make them but don’t taste them
will they still be sweet
will I be able to cry if I roll them right
will they teach me to name my truths
will they stand my rage without crumbling
just how much can these jamun take


and what if I turn them into something else entirely
how do I change the substance of them
what if instead of cooking them
I take them outside and put them on fallen leaves
for crows to eat
have you ever had this problem
have you ever started making gulab jamun
and been afraid

from Rattle #64, Summer 2019


Aarti Rao: “This poem was a moment of grace snatched out of a hellacious year. It’s an honor to have it selected as my first-ever published piece of poetry.”

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