Nina Sudhakar "Smoke and Mirrors"
Kuchisake-onna, a spirit from Japanese ghost stories, was mutilated by her husband, who, upon finding out that she was having an affair, sliced her mouth from ear to ear.
If there were a chance to unwind
the recoil, to undress the gesture —
my history demands an unflinching.
We need not resurrect the dead to know
they are alive. Conjure the stalking
darkness, a shadow in the shape of
woman. A state I am always slipping
into, like nightfall, like dawn, like
the dead space between tollings of
time. Once, the world was shadows
& from this humanity was crafted —
but if you trust in smoke & mirrors
your existence will always be a magic
trick. Prone to someone else’s vanishing.
I am more than the impulse to be seen,
I had a name other than beautiful. My
mouth was not made only to swallow
need — but I cannot tell you of aureate
desires, gleaming so brightly they drive
men to desecration. Of how a severed halo
becomes a fragile beam, flashing secret
messages behind a demurely-held fan —
can I get a smile, he says, and I am ever
obliging — all the light just slips right out.