Nithya Mariam John

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Naked Prayers

My prayers are unclothed; quite contrary to the pompous Pharisaic garments.
There are no frilled, ornamental words to aid the supplementation. Like the woman
at Simon’s house, whose tears were worth more than her alabaster jar,
my incoherent tongue lies dormant many a night, my heaving chest
wrapped tightly in sighs. I wish I could address the One above properly—
Rabboni, Almighty, Elohim—but stripped off all glorious titles, I lean
on to the pillow and talk to it. The pillowcase is a gift from my grandmother:
an embroidered house, a chimney full of smoke and blue clouds.
Does God reside in that soft cushioned cotton?
Maybe, yes. Gently, my eyes close and lips seal in silence, as I’m comforted
by the Spirit who listens to prayers disrobed of hefty quotes from the Book of Law.
There is no beginning, middle or end, let alone a proper Amen. In my dream,
I see my prayers float across the Tabernacle, where hearts converse in a language
that Love alone understands.

“Naked Prayers,” read by Nithya Mariam John.


blue slices of the sky,
buttered with yellow sunlight
and offered between the branches of a guava tree,
charters a green sea which ebbs and flows within me.
the emerald waters wash over coral desires, octopic grief and turtle-dreams.
umbrellaed by stars, I vomit a whale on the shores of Nineveh, nurturing a dying bush.


The kite cuts the skies,
and fetches an olive leaf.
The oceanic scent
waltzes the length of the clouds,
and trails all across
my snoring nostrils.

Taste buds bloom
into flavours of choice;
my teeth bites into the holy bread,
which the crows share with me,
as we dine on the banks of Cherith brook,
awaiting the arrival of the Prophet.

Nithya Mariam John is a poet, translator and teacher from Kerala, India. Her scribblings are housed in Usawa Literary Review, Muse India, Gulmohar Quarterly, The Samyuktha Poetry and DoubleSpeak among the others. She is looking forward to seeing her poems in Last Leaves and Muddy River Review in April. When not reading, she spends time in her balcony-garden, quite often with a bowl of home-made pudding in her hand. 

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Artwork: “Praying Woman” by Kazimir Malevich, 1912. Public Domain.

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