Nina Sudhakar "Smoke and Mirrors"

PC: Mason Pippenger

PC: Mason Pippenger

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.