Standing in front of the gold feline pendant,
I recalled one of my previous incarnations.
The jewelry had belonged to me
and now it was on display in the Museum of Fine Arts,
where I and others stared at it.
I remembered the prescient feeling I had
as a Nubian queen and the accompanying vision
of seeing my pendant in a glass box
and noticing strange-looking humans
wearing funny clothes, eyeing my jewelry with admiration.
I recalled even seeing myself as I currently am
with my tortoise shell glasses, pink-dyed hair,
nose-stud, and black leather jacket,
though of course I didn’t know it would be me.
I cried out and when my royal sister heard
what I was worried about,
she reassured me it was just a hallucination.
She said that my pendant would be buried with me,
along with other cherished possessions.
Suddenly, my present self sighed for my lost kingdom,
the smooth ebony skin I was once had,
and the pendant I now wouldn’t be able to touch
without the alarm piercing the silence.
I clicked a picture to carry with me for this lifetime,
but one of my stray hairs swam in front of the lens.
I fished it out and as I clicked a second time,
I remembered unfastening the cat pendant for the last time,
not knowing it wouldn’t accessorize my clothes again.
Cherishing Their Freedom
Her ancestors come to her in dreams,
in the ships that forced the waves apart to these shores,
in the chains that bound them before they their spirits were broken.
They speak in their African languages,
but strangely she understands them.
They cherish the same thing as she does,
something they slowly stopped taking for granted
and longed for their descendants and themselves to have.
She hears their prayers whispered and chanted through the centuries,
in their quarters, in the fields, in the forests and mountains,
where they escaped with packs of dogs on their bleeding heels.
Her nose smells the drops of sweat from toil
that soaked their clothes or dripped from their backs.
She sees their dances of matrimony,
the brooms they jumped over,
and their children born free
until the young ones learned they really weren’t.
Her ancestors visit her again without the clanking chains
and the scars that mapped their miseries.
Their bodies glisten with perfection,
the downward droop of their necks and spines
replaced with a posture that speaks of blissful afterlife living.
They gaze at her house, the books lining the shelves,
the silk that swishes against her calves,
the ruby against her dark throat, the beads on her braids,
the chilled glass clinking with ice
and they tell her to sometimes sing their songs of slavery
and celebrate their deeds and then they laugh with her,
happy they’re all free now, the dead and the living,
though she knows liberation doesn’t yet mean equal justice.
Tara Menon is an Indian-American writer based in Lexington, Massachusetts. Her most recent poems have appeared in: Emrys Journal Online, Indolent Books, Wards Literary Magazine, Art in the Time of Covid-19 (ebook published by San Fedele Press), Rigorous, Infection House, The Inquisitive Eater, and The Tiger Moth Review. Menon’s latest fiction has been published in Evening Street Review, The Bookends Review, and Rio Grande Review. She is also a book reviewer and essayist whose pieces have appeared in many journals, including Adanna Literary Journal, The Courtship of Winds, The Petigru Review, Boston Globe, Green Mountains Review, and The Kenyon Review.