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Nithya Narayanan


You and your mother look alike.
Strangers think you are sisters and
each time your mother pretends

to be flattered but will
later say: Next week is the week
I stop dyeing my hair

yet each week you watch her
spread the thick, viscous stuff
over her scalp again.

She never does what she
says – when you were young
she would frequently forget

that you finished school at three
and would run in late
sweating visibly through her cream jacket

in a way that embarrassed you.
You always envied the girls
whose parents got there early

and waited in the car park reading but
as you grew older
you stopped resenting your mother’s distance

and started savouring it. Still,
since you’ve left home
you’ve craved her fish curry

and the solidity of her strong arms
around your waist,
especially when you

crossed the road
into the path of a turning car
and the driver stuck his head out

and screamed:
you stupid bloody child
into the cold Auckland air.

Your mother hasn’t spoken to you
since you left med school for Elam,
the detritus of your relationship


in monosyllabic texts
in blank emails
in taut messages on post-its

and when you come home in the summer
you find she’s grown a uterine fibroid
The largest I’ve ever seen

the doctor says, adding that it might rupture
at any moment. When he points to the ultrasound
neither you nor your mother can see a thing

but later she tells you she imagines it
swollen, bulging,
a grotesque flesh piñata waiting to burst.

In the waiting room she keeps her legs crossed
to hide the wild trembling of her knees,
clutching her copy of Madame Bovary

like a Bible. Afterwards she grows
fatter and more sarcastic and develops diabetes:
you look at her and it’s like seeing

something familiar yet distorted
like watching your own face blur
at the bottom of a swimming pool.

In an attempt to be cheery
you tell her that one day
she’ll be famous for making you.

Oh right, she says
kind of like Hiroshima is known
for the bomb

Nithya Narayanan was born and bred in Auckland, and is currently pursuing a BA/LLB conjoint at the University of Auckland. Nithya has previously been published in the Faculty of Arts’ undergraduate student journal, and has completed (with distinction) two creative writing courses from the NZ Writers College. When she isn’t reading or writing, Nithya can be found watching a wholesome art film.