a poetry e-zine










Poems By Nandini Dhar


Even as a child, I knew the power
of invisibility: many dark dawns I
spent pretending to be asleep 
while my mother dressed. I would watch
her from beneath the covers, with only

one eye open.

She'd stand in front of the mirror,
the white light of the lamp like
ivory dust on her skin. Unlike
other women I knew, there were
no glittering golden bottles on her
dressing-table. No drawers

packed with her make-up kit.

She wore a cotton petticoat, clinging
to her waist like a parasol. A blouse
sticking to her breasts—my first lesson
in female anatomy. Her hair down,
soon recomposed into a bun, 
hanging like a tennis-ball on her neck.
During summer months, the weight 
of that ball would burst into 

ripe little heat-rashes.

Her sari hung on the back of a chair
flat like unleavened bread in the absence
of her limbs. She would unfold 
the twelve-hand fabric, wrapping
it around her bones, tightening
the pleats around her hips and waist, 

caressing the fabric so it would not remain

the drooping flatbread it was before
she had offered her body as a sacrifice. 
But the sari had a mind of its own--
a will to escape. It wound itself around 
her body's cage, coiled like a snake, 

leaving random bruises on the skin

Invisible, pretending to be asleep, 
I knew, even then, she could have
opted for something else
But she needed those knots around her
body to keep her firmly in place.

She was afraid of straying.


Just By Sheer Mistake

My father does not impose any curfews on me.
He doesn't even try to prevent me from 
staying out too late.

He holds me instead, in the arch of his wings
heavy on my shoulders—pressing them down.

With his arms on my slouch, he accompanies me
every where—late night screenings of Fellini, smoke-laden
coffee-shops, dimly-lit bars

with the same precision he used to browse through 
my grade-school satchel every morning

text-books: check
note-books: check
erasers: check
lunch-box: check
water-bottle: check

I dream about roaming in and out of the neon-lights
of a night-city.  All alone. My shoulders straight
My hands closing around strangers' stories like a fist--

in the same way 
as I once dreamt of leaving behind 
the lunch-box at home
                                      just by sheer mistake 


Nandini Dhar's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Muse India, Kritya, Mascara Literary Review, Off the Coast, Pratilipi, tinfoildresses, First Literary Review, Hawaii Review, Prick of the Spindle, Cabinet des Fees, Stonetelling, lingerpost, Up The Staircase, Cartographer: A Literary Review, Penwood Review and Asia Writes. A Pushcart nominee, Nandini grew up in Kolkata, India, and received an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Calcutta and another M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Currently, she is a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Literature at University of Texas at Austin.

Copyright 2011  Chantarelle's Notebook