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hunger. ritual. belonging.

By ena ganguly

2024 Peseroff Poetry Prize Winner

"The poem was absolutely compelling. The title and style, palindrome, was captivating. This piece resonated deeply. The way ena describes culture, the rituals of their culture, mother earth in comparison to their mother and family is powerful."

— Amanda Shea, 24' Judge

In my language,


is a palindrome




no matter which direction I say it

I arrive at the same place:







like back home where I was born

we celebrate each day

with flowers

to the Mother Goddess



her mouth resting                                                                                           

smiling down at me, at no one                                                                                               


at her feet

my hands

blooming with soft red

hibiscus petals



like the red border

of cotton saris


when white conches sang

and our mother

swam back into the pitch-black

comfort of the sea


I remember it all but

the memory is not mine


the color of the earth

in a home

taking its last breath

before the blow


the flat cold floor

on which I laid my body



under the hot summer days

the voices of blood ones,

I am trying to love

rose like waves and swept me to sleep



I  held onto


red glass bangles,

impossible to  keep

from breaking into





p  ie              ce        s



the passion

of anger,

which is only just grief

with its guard up,


furiously painting over

            those lost pieces

                        of home

            who refuse to be found


                        over the honesty

                                    of unnamed feelings


            over the precise fragility

                        in confusion


like how home can take centuries

to create on a land that we call our own

for generations

                                       then, on one fine day,

                                       so quickly, packed up

                                       thrown into 

                                       a four-letter word

that I return to,

forwards and


arriving at,

                                       always arriving at:


            hunger, ritual, belonging.

ena ganguly (she/they) is a soft spirited Bengali femme – a storyteller, healer, and lifelong student. Their work focuses on collective memory, storytelling, grief, and sensuality and has been featured in BBC, Buzzfeed, KUT Austin Radio, The Austin Chronicle, COURIER Newsroom, and Prizer Arts and Letters. ena has facilitated countless writing workshops for survivors, queer people of color, students, and healing practitioners. They have edited Home-Making: On Belonging, Transience, and Memory, in collaboration with the City of Austin’s Asian American Resource Center, and Search & Find, an anthology by Roots. Wounds. Words. and Carnegie Hall. Currently, they are focused on learning and subverting form while creating new work.

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