Three Poems by Aishwarya Javalgekar


The steaming cup of milk smells like mother;

loved, craved, never enough.

Flitting between monthly choices—Boost, Bournvita, maybe Milo.

Chocolate always makes milk better. 

She loved milk, not sweetened or browned, 

just pureness poured into the big stainless-steel vessel at 6 am sharp,

forcing her to wake up early on Sundays and holidays, a never-ending job.

She coaxed me to drink it the way she did

you should always try new things, I gagged.

Crooked smile, disappointed eyes.

I failed her first test at age five. 

She mourned her beauty the most.

Her sad eyes had lost the softness she once held;

heart hardening, face wrinkling,

the inevitable layer of cream losing its heat.

The cream—a bittersweet offering,

a treat she needed to survive. 

But my body refused, produced bile, threw everything out

rather than accept her inside, rejection dancing in her eyes,

why don’t you want to be like me? my stomach too weak to reply.

Now I drink her in disguise; 

filtered with sugar, flavour, crunchy bits to hide 

the taste of her. 

Tiny increments of white

slip and slide down my throat, 

join the churning bitter.

I can’t hide what I am inside.


Monster is not a word I use to describe myself.

And yet you describe me like books of olden times

with my dark skin and green hair

and my yellowing teeth

and my half-crooked smile,

and my funny speech,

and my body,

that refuses to match the monochrome of your catalogues.

Do I curve your lips in a smile?

How easy it is to forget—

injustices dismissed into realms of past

stories of once upon a time stored carefully 

in your heart, your books, your mind,

in your precious sacred shrines,

firecrackers of history

sting, but don’t burn me alive.  

Monster is not a word I use to describe myself.

Why do you?

December 2019/Pink Hibiscus Tea

I sip on my pink hibiscus tea in my living room in Toronto and think about the plight of the world.

They cut down the trees in Aarey and though I’m a million miles away I felt the thuds in my chest. The toothache last night makes sense now. When the Amazon burnt my stomach hurt for a week and maybe I just wasn’t drinking enough water or maybe I felt the flames engulfing my large intestine, drying the water away, warning of future disasters I would inflict upon myself, but this is not about the environment.

This is about my body and how with every story of child abuse it remembers a hand stroking my unformed chest. I want to punish all the arms that stroke the chests and cut the trees and drill the wells and take what isn’t theirs and claim it as their own. But I sit here stunned at my inability to confront, to correct, to stop the invader who has already left.

When I undress, my clothes leave indentations stretched across my skin and I wonder if the earth feels their pain. I don’t know if the world is doing this to me or if I’m doing it to myself. Somewhere right now a baby has died and my womb will never birth a child because it’s too busy birthing sorrow, or maybe because my mother told me never to have children I’d be a terrible mother, or maybe because I decided never to have children just to pass on to them a legacy of trauma and a genetic predisposition to pancreatic cancer.

As I sit here in this room sipping on my pink hibiscus tea, I stare at the plants outside the window. I think about how I’m empty. I thought I was a gushing river but now it’s summer and I’m a pond slowly turning into a puddle. I have nothing to give, no conversations to have, and I have poured myself out to the people around me–friends, family, relationships that take but never give. I’m tired of this weight that keeps increasing, the blows that keep coming. All I have left is a weary body, a legacy of trauma, and a genetic predisposition to pancreatic cancer.

Aishwarya Javalgekar (she/her) is a feminist writer and editor with a Masters in English (Public Texts). Her recent work appears in Ayaskala and Rigorous magazines. She is the editor-in-chief of ang(st) zine and explores identity, mental health, and the body through her writing. Find her at or follow her on Twitter @aish_java. 

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