Allegory, Re-Assembled

 

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.

 

 

Complacent Cartographies

(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

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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.