the lion in k’s garden by Rashi Rohatgi

the lion in k’s garden

When the lion came to life my friend was at the top of the tree, the very tip of her dangling fingers grazing the frizzing nape of my soon-to-be-severed paper-bag neck, marking me, though k and r being very much the same swoop, post-curl, I could not know whether she meant to ground me – live, she had pillows that said, in the moment, pillows I turned over when I cried to sleep holding them over my tightened stomach the week I was fired, and kept ripping the embroidery out of, otherwise, pettily: “how can I live in the moment and not take seriously the thoughts I am having this very moment about just how uneven were your mother’s stitches”: god I missed her mother, the only one who knew the right words to chant when someone died without simultaneously thinking hard-working men deserved a little more grace than the rest of us; obviously not as much as she missed her mother, that I could tell by the way her nails chipped, high and to the right, where she bit them when she needed a hug and neither of us was around, her mother gone and me obsessed – I could give her that now, I could admit to it, though hadn’t I always, hadn’t I been proud of ignoring the cold the thirst the hunger the way the university kept inserting my photograph where it made no sense, into pamphlets for drama applicants or girls who might need Plan B, ignoring the moments gratefully for I was hard-working and I deserved – okay not grace no one was offering grace and it sounded christian, too, I knew what my colleagues thought flannery o’connor thought it meant but look: have you ever been within a lifetime of bringing a lion back to this plane, this ground, the dirt to which k had devoted her whole glowing self, yes, glowing where I sweat and liked it, counted each drop and counted on the lion’s blood appearing just after the bones were fit and the rites realized – or lift me, if not out of the lion’s clutches then just a bit closer to her heart.

Rashi Rohatgi’s SITA IN EXILE, a novella about a girl, her mongoose, and the Norwegian Arctic, will be out in spring 2023 with Miami University Press. 

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Art: Henri Rousseau Public Domain ALT A Rousseau painting of a lion eating a cheetah deep in the jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation – towering flowers and tall stalks of grass – making the lion look very tiny

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