Poems | Nandini Dhar

A painting by Hungryalist painter Anil Karanjai
Source: Facebook page (with permission from his wife Juliet Reynolds)

the heirloom vanguard

to say that blood has seeped into everything we touch, taste, linger upon
is a cliché. yet, you do not renounce that oft-repeated brittleness

for the opulence of a new blue-seamed shirt. you know, crumpled papers
are countries in their own rights. inside the overcrowded trains of these cities,

you maul the ornate curvatures of extinct alphabets. peel open this fishbone
edge of memory, the lost rice-fields, the moths hiding inside clay-kernels.

an old man sifts sands in the prison courtyard, his eyes turned towards
the ocean. this belief in the inevitability of sunrise that you nursed

within the crevices of your cuticles. in the lines of your palm, an immaculately
charted crimson: the rhyme of the raised fists, that metaphor in the pale

azure of the new dawn. these meticulous poems which made ghosting
possible. made it possible for you to stare at the bone maps without a quiver

on your eyelids. there is a truth in every cliché that could not have been
said otherwise. this power in repetition that you know. this powerlessness

of repetitions that you are forced to learn. a poem is nothing but
an accumulation of untrimmed lines – reckless charades between

the clamor of thousand reproaches and a bleary dawn suspended
in the windows of a midnight tram. an obituary always accompanies

a dream – the legends of a yarn woven by rudderless sailors. a
tale that could have been written only in unrhymed un-crafted shards,

the poet, an unschooled evangelist with too many pipe-dreams. 


that precise moment when you stop invoking the rain. that precise moment when you cease finding in salt-grains the histories of clandestine alliances. this knowledge that cannot adorn the page in familiar rhyme-schemes. this knowledge that you hide in the lint at the back of your knees. this knowledge that you can taste with the tip of your tongue, yet are afraid to cast into shape.

and, the documentary...

the rain and salt stitched together would not make an ocean. even if it did, you have memorized only the shape of these bones with which the ships were carved. the sea is the sapphire glow in a raven's feather. the sea is the bleeding skin. this desire to whisper: a hemorrhage is a certainty that can kill. yet, a wound is also a chokehold, an adornment -- that empty moonlight between beautiful and sublime. a sun as bruised as the moon itself. 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.

dearest, this is nothing but an attempt to write in ash-smeared allegories an account of your silences.

broken allegory

::the blisters in the crevices of the dead sparrow's wings :: this knowledge of impossibility:: to know
that you would not even draw lines on the sun's exposed ribcage :: to cradle in the crooks of your arms
the inevitable:: the paths through which lamentations become chants :: that this body bleeds, cracks
and ceases to exist:: this poem is not trying to witness anything:: i would not name this solidarity ::

utopic realism

a peck into your notebook: rows of tangled details, which would not make any sense
without a rooting metaphor. scattered anecdotes: rebuying your own book

from the secondhand booksellers. the inscription gave it away. the grease stains
on the salt-shakers at coffee house. impassable sidewalks. an anaemic alley

balancing rickshaws, barbershops and lonely housewives on its palm. honking taxis,
the dirt in the cabdriver's restless fingertips, the echo of the curse-words in the air.

a crowhead underfoot. a memory, abeyant. comes alive only when i notice
the swanfeathers inside your ringlets. hands that untangle silences. billowing

like gunny sacks in a clothesline. to hold the bones of your cheeks in my arms
is to do speak in half-knowledge. half-faith. this lull that smells of morning

smog. details that obfuscate, and are meant to do so. i have never wanted love
to be anything more than a set of questions. it was a fate you chose for yourself.

there was nothing and no one to curse, no one to save from disappearance.
save and except this museum, carved out of the forgettings of a failed revivalist.

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