Karuna Ezara Parikh On What Beauty Means To Her

The Box

The healing came as a box.

I tried for years to pry it open,

blunted my nails on

its cherrywood edges

bruised my thumbs and called

too many spells out till

my throat ran dry my face wet

from chucking up salt.

The healing came as a box

but not a moment too soon,

no lofty revelation no exclamation

no, quietly my rotten, sunken bits

reached for the latch.

First clue: The box won’t come to you.

First step: You must want to see the chest.

Inside it are all the tools,

the crescent moon

you will need to slice your pride

the cherries to choke your

insecurity, to throw pits in the throat of it.

Inside is chilli powder to burn

all the self-pity and haul your sweet ass

to the altar of reality but

there is also a cushion and water

and silk for your wounds,

there is also a voice recording

you play on repeat some nights saying –

I understand you.

You are safe as you.

Your turmoil is beauty too.

There is also inside it an open field

abundant with flowers you

need not the names to,

and small strong muscles

to apply to your heart.

The healing came as a mirror

no tricks here, no foil.

At the bottom of the box,

carved of soap and sandalwood.

I held it up one day without

my eyes done up as fish so they finally

stopped trying to swim, my lips bare

so they finally spoke the truth that

my beauty was my scar worn backwards

my beauty was in the repeat action

of my weary arm reaching to the box

over and over and saying –

I’m ready to work

hand me the tools

I will chip away the fear,

make a queen from a fool.

Sweet, scary ocean of bravery

wash terrific your waves over me,

I have undone the knot of the box

with a pulsing, bloody key,

and beneath spell and tool

and discarded noose,

I finally found the beauty of me.

Photograph: Upahar Biswas

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