Grandfather reminds us, these
are not dialects we’re listening to. Our friend
Babua puts his index finger into the cat’s eye. He
is different from boys who swing them
by their tails. My sister throws water
at the kitten: thirteen days old. Grandfather
arrow-tips a history lesson on our palms: remember
to soak your word in river-water even before
you open your tongue. I laugh at the cat’s
mother’s desperate mewing. Someone somewhere
suggests, a corpse, a torn baby shoe, a river
pulled out of the tongue of a town. We know
the smallness of our own bodies. This ant
that dies between our fingernails. These
little fingers that kill. Someone somewhere
whispers: let’s partition the cat. Grandfather
canes in his history lesson: the other side
was a land of rivers. This one is of relief-camps.
Babua’s partition is a line drawn
on the ground with an HB pencil. My sister’s
is a broken ground that couldn’t be seen
with naked eyes. Someone somewhere puts
a cat inside a gunny bag sack. We close the bag’s
mouth, leave it in the middle of the railway
station. Babua’s skin breaks. Breaks into blood.
Grandmother pickles mangoes. The red chillies.
The lemon is nothing but a pebble. We throw
pebbles at the birds. The lemon is a lemon. It
splits into scissors. On Babua’s shoulder bones,
the name of a girl. His skin breaks. Breaks into
hairline cracks. On Babua’s skin, new names
of girls. These names we don’t know. Have never
heard. A new evening, a new wound. A new
wound, a new name. Grandfather
claws in his history-lesson: the other side
was exquisite, exorbitant green. Dead girls, dead
names. My skin itches: bugbites, allergies.
Dead girls, erased girls. Girls who come back
as waspbites on baby skin. The blackbird
sings. A broken crow-egg on the grass.
Sister cleans the last remains
of the yolk : empty fingers. The private
burial of the unborn glistens. Glistens on my
sister’s fingertips. The cat meows its way
back home. Grandmother swats flies. Mango
cubes inside her pickle bottle. We watch
our playground vanish. The neighborhood
creek turns into a skyscraper — brick
wings and a fancy woman’s name.
~ Nandini Dhar
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, Bitter Oleander, Cream City Review and elsewhere. She is the co-editor of the journal Elsewhere. 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.