Poetry

Divine Transformation

Natasha Rao

Watching Jain nuns sweep peacock feathers
across the earth, I wanted to become
one of them. I was pupal, shifting
in the uniform of my larval skin. The nuns
practice ultimate nonviolence, brushing
the floor with fallen feathers, cotton broom,
unbleached wool to avoid bruising any insect.
It was to me an obvious way to live, before
I saw myself as small, inelastic. I was large
with guilt. Why girl, why not mouse, moth?
My mother asked where do you see your
self in ten years and I said barefoot, forest floor,
fostering compassion. Wearing a muslin cloth
over my mouth to avoid swallowing some
winged thing. I didn’t auspicate the apartment
in Brooklyn, sponging blood from mosquitos
off my wall, could not imagine I would cultivate
a new cruelty, not just obvious roach spray
and rat trap, but killing the unobjectionable,
gnats and fruit flies who inhabit this arbitrary
world for just a breath. Last week I ate exclusively
the unborn, salmon roe and quail egg
in one luscious bite. The distance between
what I thought I was and what I am
grows. I could have been a kind of fly.
I could have been kind.

Natasha Rao is the author of Latitude, which won the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. She lives in Brooklyn.
Originally published:
June 28, 2021

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