Stories we grew up with: Kali (Let me tell you what Death looks like) (India)

This is what I was told when I was a child:

Death wears a chain of demon
heads around her neck
her skirt is a belt of forearms
hanging loose, fingers swaying.
Death is extraordinary – her hair
thicker and blacker than mine
reaching to the back of her knees
spreading wider than her shoulders
from which eight or ten arms grow
adorned with a row of bangles made
from the smoothest gold
armlets that shine when she walks
when she holds up the head of her latest kill
a demon whose dripping blood is caught
in a silver plate below him.

Her knife is sharp and her palms are red
her crown a craft of shimmers and
edges that brightens with age, but
Death is ageless and wise
her anklets and toe rings unstained
from the slain bodies she stands on
nor is she bitten by the snakes coiled at her feet
heads risen in adoration or surprise
or something else – an animalistic
urge to follow her through time
and destruction, until one day
when I am only a hunch of a person
a weathered sack of aches and creaking lungs
Death stretches out her arms to me
and I go to her.


Cover image by Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About Author

Ankita Bellary is a writer and university student from Brisbane. She is of Indian descent and enjoys exploring a variety of themes in her work, including her cultural heritage, suburban family life, and the natural environment.

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