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Two Poems by Nabina Das

By Nabina Das

Ancestral      

 The mirror is right across from the Hajo brass lamp
and my face oblong in the evening’s haze

What

this blunt chin sees is a trek

across great river valleys
From where the thugs have carried her metaphors on henguli dawns

But what
does the mirror know that the face doesn’t –

names of henchmen who lusted and surrendered
bodies
in oily gleam

eyebrows that lit up
on moonless nights –
those killer all lovers my ancestors of crepuscule forms

What
the lack of light means, the mirror knows

the eyes
have trained in complete darkness in secret sojourns
and then came home with Radha’s hair
in Krishna’s loin

And what
did the saint sing while leaving his bride

whose face is you in the mirror
No marriage mark of white sandal and kumkum
or stained skirt starched with semen

Kulta! – they screamed at the reflection, the fallen thug woman
who became royalty
in seduction, and then ruled centuries of family lore

So what
do I see in the mirror that mother brought in as trousseau and left

in a corner of the house
it’s varnished wood crying out
to mate
with the ximolu tree that always looked the spring in its face

What else is a woman Luitporia

***

Anima dreams a home

Take a fistful of sand. Sprinkle it in the wind. Start tracing the grains on the floor using lines. Those songlines, lines from the furrows of your mouth, lines from the fold of the eyes. We’ve come down the hills, across the map lines, slept flat bellied on the plains to dream. To let the saliva form the rivers in the dust. And we raised us on the land like we raise a home. They have dragged our daughters out to the forest, our men to the bloody pits, our dreams to the ravines. All of us lay inside a hut and dreamt a sun, a home, and a river so lucid that it washed us clean every night. We dreamt every night and rode the waves. We went in grass hiding in the season’s grace from all that broke our homes, our hen sheds, our beautiful arum stalks from the pond side. We lay and lay to see us start singing in the living room, the notes lighting up the hanging lamps and spinning curtains. But is this a home? Is this what they call the khwabgaah, the dream vessel where our minds sail? I’ve seen the mortar cling to people’s sinews, cloying their heart. I’ve heard the cries from within cells of bricks and barriers. So now we take a fistful of sand, a sprinkle of cement from our body, a layering of bricks pieced from the kiln of our burning desire. The ground shifts and rivers burst forth on the roads that stopped us from finding home.

I, Anima, will sing the song of razing the prisons to ground. We’ll raze the high walls and the cold concrete dungeons, all detention camps. They will never hold dew drops. Once broken, they’ll become dough on the moist soil. Our home will rise from the bread we will knead together. The bread of freedom, the bread of fearlessness, the bread we’ll share with all across the table.

Bio:
Nabina Das is the author of three books of poetry – Sanskarnama (Red River, 2017), Into the Migrant City (Writers Workshop, 2013), and Blue Vessel (Le Zaporogue, 2012). A 2017 Sahapedia-UNESCO fellow, a 2012 Charles Wallace creative writing fellow (Stirling University), and a 2016 Commonwealth Writers feature correspondent, Nabina has an MFA from Rutgers University-Camden, and a Masters in Linguistics (JNU). Hailing from Guwahati, Assam, she is an NYS Summer Writing Conference and Wesleyan Writers Conference alumna, and also the co-editor of 40 under 40, an anthology of post-globalisation poetry (Poetrywala, 2016). A 2012 Sangam House fiction fellow, Nabina is the author of a short fiction collection titled The House of Twining Roses (LiFi, 2014) and a novel titled Footprints in the Bajra (Cedar Books, 2010), and teaches Creative Writing in classrooms and workshops.

***

For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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