This return is a wilted and brown lemon rind–the deafening
memory of how I have evaded one war after another.
A slow crumbling evening, and beneath a billboard
where starlets pose as obedient daughters to army generals,
I imagine: what it means to try to shut one’s eyelids
while being bombarded by something as simple as street lights.
I suck a copper coin, my tongue numb and cold
against the metal. The city’s rickshaws honk
breath across my knees.
On the pavements, rickety little girls learn to play with their fingers
touch the aroma of the coffee-cup along the glass walls, commit
to memory. Commit to memory the fact that walls can shine
from inside, that walls can invite one in, without offering
anything real to eat–this city, indeed,
is an exercise in staring.
When chased away, the girls leave behind–the hint
of grease, the imprint of their nose–tips
on the irreproachable glass. Do not worry. That
slight etching, too, would soon be wiped away–
the teenager who would perform
the act of erasure, has lost
his village to a legislative burial.
Before stepping into our city,
his tongue was a stranger
to the taste of coffee.
Nandini Dhar is the author of the book Historians of Redundant Moments (Agape Editions, 2017). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New England Review, Epiphany, Fugue, diode, Memorious, New South, Best New Poets 2016, and elsewhere. She teaches literature and gender studies at OP Jindal Global University, India, edits the bi-lingual journal Aainanagar, and divides her time between Delhi, the national capital of India and Kolkata, her hometown.