Elephantsong

by Cia Mangat

           “Do you think red is my colour?”

I ask with softest teeth.
           “What?” She watches the mattress, how it
languidly sinks beneath
           my thighs. “It’s just that that’s the whole
Indian wedding motif;
           always red.” She wipes away dark
chunks of kajal, small streaks
           of black smeared down beneath her eyes,
across her thick grey cheeks.
           After each cousin’s reception
we’re here for a debrief;
           our herd of two, yawning,
dunking rusks in our tea.
           The earrings we bought her for the
reception are curved wreaths
           of gold and pearl, so heavy she
pinned chains underneath
           her hair to support them. I joked
her ears’ll sag to her feet
           by the time she’s thirty and she
chuckled, throaty and deep;
           see, she is gentle and grey, far
softer than she first seems.
           On other nights she would let me
whisper secrets and dreams
           so big that only her ears would
understand how to keep
           them. Now, I don’t want to burden
her from the jewelled glee
           of being decked up like this, her
skin glistening like ghee –
           how am I supposed to tell her
now it’s getting on to three
           that her red’s the colour I dream of
after our nights like these?