Nina Sudhakar


Kali, a Hindu goddess of destruction, is often depicted with a lolling tongue, which she may use to swallow warriors or drink the blood of demons.

Would you accept a gentle swallowing?

Assuming tenderness     of course       because 
    sometimes an open mouth says       welcome 
    sometimes a void waves us into      the glistening sheen 

Imagining a space       outside of time where forever means 
    ruination       where we stand before an event horizon 
    & do not pause      before crossing the threshold 

Whirling round and round        premeditation:      how to devour 
    back the rushing loom           on which the universe was          strung
    fingers gliding across                 the tautness —      plucking a sound 
    to last long after it lies                deep in the belly of           a black hole. 

Knowing the impact of a body    is only the sound of        a dislodged soul
                inside the ossuary          of a ribcage              something calcified
                unhardens       like a coral reef becomes bone-white       upon death
                ready for dissolution       every knob of the spine opens
                        onto an unlit doorway

Wading through sloshing marrow      a key glimmers ahead
    the serrated edge of teeth clicking into place
    amber could hold an ancient secret        for a thousand years & 
        I am wondering                what the blood could bury

Taking a mouthful of abyss           listening for the unclenched          teeth
           the labor of feeding               the tongue slithering             belly-first 
     for scraps  the rust growing    like moss   on buildings      the tunnels spiraling
      lights into infinity         any one of these —      your mouth, also — 
                          a portal        & your body         itching to barrel through.


I became fused to potential futures, heritage of some
unborn daughter, or else razored teeth cutting through

decades of distance. I felt the coming of a contagion,
as if my body were gestating a fatal plague. I looked

inside myself & grew to worship the rage thickening
my blood so that it mounted my heart & unfurled its

ribbons unto the earth. I wanted to throw blades into
the rifted past, feeling that this power, harnessed, could

outlast us all. I imagined, in the end, that the earth’s core
could be coaxed out of its sodden cave to see all that had

transpired in the name of the half-lives, bodies alive &
presently decaying. Long after the descendants had left

the days to fester, begrudging the earth even a soft tilt
to its rotation. What other end to a world built from all

bend & pillars of break? Every beast has a belly & all of us
here were still animals, once-conjured contours of swollen

desire. I filled mine to loom large, to one day be an heirloom for
myself, still yearning to gift the future some recognizable shape.

Nina Sudhakar is a writer, poet, and lawyer. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Matriarchetypes (winner of the 2017 Bird’s Thumb Poetry Chapbook Contest) and Embodiments (forthcoming from Sutra Press). Her work has appeared in The Offing, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Reservoir; for more, visit