We walk past the neighborhood lunatic—clad
in striped cotton pajamas, black and white,
white and black: Do Ankhe Baara Haath style.
The world is a prison, he had declared an hour
earlier, dhunuchi-dancing to a group of clapping
neighborhood kids. Only it was not pujo. Our
first lesson in the craft of storytelling: behind
every cliché is a truth that cannot to stripped
otherwise. This aftermath of a noon rain, this
sun forced to speak in hushed undertones, our
knuckles blistered by untimely hail: I am
counting the effulgence of raindrops trapped
inside cupped palms. Counting and falling
behind: ahead of me, my sister and her friend.
Arm in arm, arguing. As always. The old garden-
house is where every evicted fish, pockmarked
by death, comes for refuge, her friend says. His
hands moving– as if he is extending his fingers
into air, begging this nothingness to fill his fists
with stories. My sister disagrees: the old banyan
tree is where the fish go to die. Coconul leaf-
blades twirl over our faces, dust inside our eyes:
could have an impending storm, but not. My
sister would not let us move our eyes away. A
pinch, a slap, a bruise, blood underneath
the fingernails: my sister and her friend
are fighting a war that goes way back
to the past. How far does one unravel
the laterite lumps to trace the anatomy
of a clarrd rag doll? We would keep track
of the dead anyway: the squirrel stiff
as mahogany, the baby crows up on
the nest, the kitten under the wheels
of the bus. A check-mark for each, a nibble.
A nibble on the edges of our wound maps.
Lunatics are those who do not tiptoe
around past disasters. A letter for every
mailbox in the neighborhood : a line in each.
Our mad uncle writes them. No one reads
those scraps, but us: the children. We, who,
do not yet know what coherence in a story
is. We who do not know what to become.
These are all we inherit: a chill in the bones,
rust-shaped disappointments, petrified belongings.
We know, then: a mono-syllable can foretell
catastrophes fourtheen syllable rhymes cannot.
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
, Los Angeles Review
, Whiskey Island
, Bitter Oleander
, Cream City Review
and elsewhere. She is the co-editor of the journal Elsewhere
(www.elsewherelit.org). 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.