To suffer from the redundancy
of those who came late.
No last notes from comrades who left,
no immaculately plotted atlas for comrades
yet to come – nothing I write, say,
sculpt or mould would be seriously
annihilating, disassembling or an original
treatise on how to form secret alliances.
What I can promise is to impart
this detritus a body that resembles
a tree-bark– sin confession, sin
despair, sin metaphor, sin atonement.
An effort to chronicle these blood clots
without invoking the shadows
of the best-sellers’ lists: yet,
there is nothing novel or illuminating
about that state of plight called allegory.
Despair, after all, is a luxury only poets can afford.
What I am left with then is a stubbornness
to excavate. A resolution that even
in this epoch of the loss of a shared dictionary
to decide directions and translations, I will write
in long lines that stretch across the page.
Elegy At Aftermath
A rice-field sutured by the railway tracks,
the walls of an empty amphitheater,
the lonely microphone on stage, waiting for
or its speaker, a frozen scarlet flag
upside down on the ground: this desire
to press my palm against those that cannot
be touched, is nothing but a willful remembrance
of a legend that never existed to begin with.
To write this poem, I must first break this twig
into two. Here, I inform, there is no sentence
in this language that can hold
this reservoir of alliterations I am unfolding.
(After Ritwik Ghatak)
A lemon sapling in between the cracks of the sidewalk, an old man in a milkmaid costume, the tousling krishnachuras, a lipstick-litter in the blue faux-leather seat of the rickshaw: the tattering edges, the holes, the tears. Here, in this city, raindrops roar like women squatting down in the middle of the rice-fields to push out rickety babies from their insides. The irrepressible stammer of a begging bowl, the shriek of the lorry tyres on the rain-soaked streets, the irritable blare of the agitated fingers on the car horns, the broken voice of the ten-year old boy hawking mangoes — amid these chimes of obsequious diligence, a woman with coarse palms, turmeric and ink-stains on finger-tips, bends her hips to touch the broken leather between her toes. A quiet moment that arrives accompanied by a cacophonous orchestra, a moment when her feet fail to own the city’s bone-marked history. Betwixt the shark toothed comb in a man’s pocket and the crowded grime of a local train, is a nib-thin little girl: learning to read the cartographers’ whims.
Victoria’s Fairy-Bird : Dirge In the Edges of A Very Public History
A tessellation of accidents, a broken quest: the moment
when the city becomes the shared thesaurus
of all we have been wanting to write. Every poem
becomes everything other than taut line-breaks
and belabored end-rhymes. A list, a suppurating moth
wing: a tumescent lychee. White flies circling the streetlights,
a pinch of salt against the skin: sixteen feet high
with a ten feet wingspan, she plays. Plays the marching
band tunes to the ghost of a queen who never set foot
in this dust city. So what if the secret historiographies
of our home were written in the crowded corners
of another continent? What if every folktale
that we’ve tattooed on the floor of our terrace is a cry– a cry
without words, a cry beyond words. A city too scared,
a city too inhibited to wipe off the fingerprints of sailors,
cartographers and clerks. But, this is a creation story
where her heavy cartilages need to be oiled once a month.
This desire to whisper: a bleeding skin is a certainty
that can kill. A choke hold, an adornment – that empty
moonlight between beautiful and sublime. A sun as bruised
as the moon. These wings that she never looks at, touches
or calls her own. The city responds in metaphors that escape
every conceivable rhyme. Across the street, a mythic carpenter: busy.
Busy chiseling banyan trees out of old bookshelves, cupboards
and dressing tables. This is how a table is sutured. The sound
of the needle tying the threads reverberates through every home
in the city: this sound of memories walking out
of the termite-infested pages of an album. These wings
will not take her anywhere near the crusts of the cloud:
that knowledge is a thunderstorm in between her fingers.
About the Poet
Nandini Dhar is the author of the chapbook Lullabies Are Barbed Wire Nations (Two of Cups Press, 2014). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Potomac Review, PANK, Los Angeles Review, Whiskey Island, Cream City Review and elsewhere. She is the co-editor of the journals Elsewhere and Aainanagar. Nandini hails from Kolkata, India, and divides her time between her hometown and Miami, Florida, where she works as an Assistant Professor of English at Florida International University.