Little Girl Desires
(after Tarfia Faizullah and Renee Emerson)

A door painted
the agitated colors
of ripe lemons, a watermelon
ageing properly. The daintiness
of immaculately shaped
bangs on foreheads. Mary Jane
shoes-- red. Socks that stop
right at the edge
of your knees. In non-committal
colors of boiled potatoes
and rice. Alice in Wonderland
dress sleeves. Ankle-length
skirts. Frills on
the necklines. Aprons
with sequins. Waist-long
hair. A conch sharp
nose. Fuschia nail-polish.
Peacock blue
silk bow. Glass
bangles the shade
of rainbow. Rhinestone
bindis to match
every skirt
that spurts out
like a mountain stream.
Mickey Mouse
applique; Peter Pan
collar. Purple
seams, indigo
lace. Butter dye
skin. It is true
I wanted
to be pretty before
intelligent. It is also
true that those
little girl dreams
jumped straight
out of
Ladybird books.

Home : A Cento

Street corners belonged to men, and my sister decides.
Decides to stare back at this afternoon of indeterminate color.

A heavy, unreasonable rain had fallen the night before--
there is always a poetic line waiting for its tune,

a lyric waiting for a writer, someone claiming and reclaiming
an I. The moss-green brick walls; the dust whirling

in the thick noon-colored gloom. My sandal stuck
in the molten asphalt. The bare front verandah,

kept deliberately unvarnished: made for women
to have outdoor space to occupy. A threshold between

the house and the sidewalk, a free-floating space
between the walls and the street-corners. The noise and

the heat. The sun above the electric poles, the crows’
republic on the wires. The torn film posters the neighborhood

lunatic had piled up a step away from the foul-smelling
dog. This poll campaign is a struggle to restore democracy

and civil rights.
On the concrete sidewalk, the relentless
tide of debris. The rickshaw-wallah pedals persistently.

The sharp breeze unsettles the film posters, the madman,
draped in a tattered blanket, chases the paper-shards.

My sister runs along with him. Inside the huge showcase
of the sweetmeat shop, a few flies rest on the snowy

kachagolla, heaped on a large bell-metal plate. I grip, as
though for the first time, a newspaper bag of jilipis,

and lick from each fingertip, the sugar and the syrup.
I stand alone in the sidewalk, watching my sister shake off the

smell of winter. I am still following her every footstep. But,
won’t for too long. I am tired of writing down everything

that she says. Her corrections of my spelling errors. A chameleon
turns the shade of a betel-juice stained wall: the swollen pouch

of red on its neck: which, we children, thought of
as our blood. Sucked out of our eyes. Our grandmother

sits on the porch, biting on an apple. Curses us.
Badmash maiya duikhan.

(Note: The lines are from bell hooks, belonging: a culture of place; Roy, Bhaskar, An Escape Into Silence; Paule Marshall, The Chosen Place, The Timeless People; Arundhati Roy, God of Small Things; Tarfia Faizullah, Seam, and some of my own old journals.)

Womb Song

is a collapsed pillar. Broken birds’ eggs, an abandoned crow’s nest. Detritus of dry twigs. Drenched leaves. Day long battles. A miniscule line of mole droppings behind the rice basket on the kitchen floor. The seam between life and non-life. Name and no name. House-slippers. Cotton floral print kaftan taut around mother’s knees. Missing teeth. Irrelevant maps. Dispossessed towns. Unpossessed homes. Unremembered names-- Dhaka, Pabna, Bikrampur, Srihotto. Speculated heritage. Misremembered country, and scratched-out poems. Morning prayers, rumpled school uniforms, orderly lines. Never-ending ballads. Monotony, repetitions. Fourteen syllable lines. Neglected housework. Unfinished homework, end-rhymes. Frequent naps. Unplucked tea leaves. That scandalous tram ride. Dressing up in white women’s clothes. A walk down the river, bonechina cups and tastefully tepid tea. A garden full of red flowers – hibiscus, flamboyance, rongon. Obsolete zines. Inconvenient ancestors. Erased family trees. Reluctant deaths. Garrulous ghosts, Antigone’s fingernails

Nandini Dhar 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. She is the author of Lullabies Are Barbed Wire Nations and co-editor of the journal Elsewhere. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Word Riot, Potomac Review, PANK, Los Angeles Review, Bluestem, and elsewhere. She blogs at