about the author

Nandini Dhar 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, [PANK], Los Angeles Review, Whiskey Island, Cream City Review, and elsewhere. She is the co-editor of the journal, Elsewhere. 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.

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Useless Legacies 

Nandini Dhar

Where our guava tree meets the neighbors’ cinnamon tree,
separating our land from theirs, my sister has dug in, ripped

the remaining of our great-grandmother’s tapestries.
The attic folds her into a sickle blade: a little girl tangled

in the wires of too many disposable histories. Like a rat
she rummages the trunks, the corners. Around her, troublesome

keepsakes: dresses made for little girls, as small as thimbles.
My sister is looking for a book. A few pages. Something

for her to nest in, to slip through. Outside,the rain
splatters on the neighbor’s tin roof, re-arranges the rooms.

Inside my sister’s fingers: wilting threads. A cresecnt-sickle moon,
the color of rust, no breast-thumping speeches or chants on sight.

Only us sisters tiptoeing around the eyesores of the women
who came before. Embroidered flowers, fanning out like ostrich

tails, birds muttering silent lullabies, miraculous butterflies:
a lore of our foremothers tracing themselves in already

determined designs. Copied, replicated, reproduced.
My sister, who does not flinch from hurting others, fumbles

in front of our great-grandmother’s hands crocheting: a catalogue
of unscaled plateaus. Sister casts herself alternately as a broom,

an owl, an unlit candle. Yet, no book presents itself
like a prophecy to us. No open pages, no slashed alphabets.

Only old women fingers that want to close us in: within
their webs of hierarchic privacies, unfulfilled dreams. Obdurate,

seamless. Annals of annihilations: how our foremothers lost
lost their backbones and became caterpillars. Learnt to decipher

the watermarks in their elbows, again, by plucking out
every single bone in the body of every little girl born henceforth.

My sister unravels every ancestor like the threads in a sari-border.
A seam opens, the jasmine tree outside spits fishbones.

My sister’s fingernails cradle trantrum throws them out
one by one: scarlet flowers, roosters, leaves in three

shades of green. Button-strictures, burnished in threads.

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