“An Ethnography of White Men by the Goddess Kali” – Maya Mackrandilal

Image: Goddess Kali, posted at Wikimedia Commons by Piyal Kundu (পিয়াল কুণ্ডু) under a Creative Commons License.

You don’t see the Goddess coming til her foot’s on your throat.

Maya Mackrandilal’s “An Ethnography of White Men by the Goddess Kali” sings right into my Hindu-heathenish soul. A poem in five increasingly bloody movements, the narrative unthreads Kali’s unsavoury encounters with men who seem determined to misunderstand her. Oh, they mean well. Don’t they almost always mean well, these men who are hockey players and passive aggressive dinner companions, these men eager to explain why her opinions are all a bit askew, or to convince her that a post-racial society really is possible. If you’ve dated men like this and despaired, read this poem to taste vicarious, goddess-distributed comeuppance.

I love this poem because it’s sublimely, hilariously relatable. Of *course* men mansplain to the blackskinned wielder of sword and severed head. How many “well, actually”s do you think Mary, Mother of God heard, bringing up JC? Mackrandilal balances each movement of this poem like a goddess-arm, calling out careless patriarchies in gestures both subtle and sharp. Witness this not-so-innocuous exchange, post-date, between Kali and her van-driving beau: “She says that the Tarkovsky film was fine, but all the mommy issues were a bit / tiresome / Hurt, he says she is self-centered, myopic, unable to see it his way.”

Does the evening end with a half-hearted grope under Kali’s sari? No, it ends with a literal sanguinary shower: “She bathes her hair with his blood in the moonlight / Before advancing into the dark.”

Call it celestially-curated wish fulfillment. Call it giving the white cishet macho club a reckoning in dancing feet and rouged lips. This poem is a playful, precise shiv between the eyes of oppression, even – and perhaps especially, as the last movement shows – from those who want to touch your feet wrong, and call it love. Kali forbid.

Read “An Ethnography of White Men by the Goddess Kali” here.
Maya Mackrandilal is a transdisciplinary artist and writer. Visit her website here.

bon voyage.jpgThis is the twenty-fourth installment of Other Kinds of Men, a speculative poetry reader in honour of Ursula K. Le Guin. Speculative writing, which encompasses the major genres of mythology, fantasy and science fiction, has often given voice to the most relentless and ungovernable urgencies of this age, and any other. Le Guin understood this: that to write about dragons, ice worlds and other seeming oddities was, in fact, to write into the messy, riotous complexity of ourselves. Here’s to dragons, and here’s to Ursula.

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