A ship spat out this city: a prayer defenceless
and routinized, lulled to sleep beneath the tongue

of a tired priest. A mercenary and his grammar
of broken glass-beads: a prayer, after all, is nothing

but emptiness sketched in meters, a belief in immobility,
supplication. A prayer like a blade on our tongues.

A prayer like a broken glass bangle in between
our teeth. And we refuse to pray. Refusal is where

all history worth anything other than a copper
coin begins : the city loves to break all pronouns

into chipped earthen cups. A limestone chapel
in the middle of coconut trees, the church-bells

ringing as if they are untuned cymbals
of an evening sankirtan: this city is an exercise

in incongruence. A photocopy of what
came before, elsewhere. Yet, what escapes

this photocopy is the image of a dead
eucalyptus. Dead from the very moment

of its inception, yet offering its bare
branches for the migrant birds

to fall asleep. What cannot be woven
in the leftovers of this island-yarn

is the ballad of a seagull who decides
to scatter its feather across the breadth

of an abandoned lighthouse. An abandoned
lighthouse, and the knowledge

that this cup of tea that flows
from lip to lip bores no signature: the city

loves to pound all end-rhymes
into porcelain-dust – abrasive.


Nandini Dhar hails from Kolkata, India. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Potomac Review, PANK, Los Angeles Review, Permafrost and Southern Humanities Review. Her work has also been featured in the anthology The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Writing. She teaches postcolonial literature at Florida International University, and co-edits the online journal Elsewhere.