Skip to content

A Landscape in Cobweb and other poems

Nandini Dhar

Requiem From the Pothole, Within Which I Stand, Precariously Balanced


An old woman drags behind her

a dilapidated mailbox, its half-broken door


rattling on the brick of the pavement.

For five decades, she has


refused to shut her door,

has set aside a plate of food for a son


who is dead. Dead and gone. The plan

to build a monument for him was discussed


meticulously, then aborted – like many

other things we planned to chisel. Besides,


everyone knew him by his alias. Which

only happens to be an incomplete nomenclature


when contriving a memorial. I remember

her as a line in a song, an epigraph


in a poem whose end-rhymes

you kept forgetting. Although, I


remember you joining the chorus.

A line in a song where her eyes


are always hibiscus-red: with tears.

An antique mother who keeps carving


pearl-coffins from her own tears. Outside

of the barbed wires of the poems,


her eyes were hollow: you could have

poured buckets and buckets of water,


but nothing would have overflowed. No

ripples, nothing. Her hair shot up


towards the sky, a dry oleander tree

whose branches were bereft of blossoms. A


colony of vultures made their homes

in those shriveled boughs – dry, dessicated,


drought-heavy. In order to touch her bones,

rattling like an abandoned chimney, I


had to unstring your olivewood fiddle. Alone,

with empty hands, bruise-rivered


like an overflowing estuary. You stood

apart, head inside your hands, staring


down. Dejected, because you failed to find

the hammer inside the toolbox.


The Last Surviving Diorama From Twentieth Century 


A tongue thus born – the prick 

of a rusted needle, the serration 

offered by a mountain-path, the chipped

edges of a dismembered constellation,

the bruised bones of a north star 

that has lost its way. A star-chrome voice, 

the ash that is left after the last fortification 

has been gunned down : a tongue lit 

by a flameable constellation. A city of girls

looking for poems on their skins; 

you think, in their metaphors, your blood 

will find a river to flow. This effort 

to illustrate your voice with the broken 

edges of the brick is like a leaf 

looking for a tree. A quest pre-ordained 

to fail: I am rowing a canoe down 

the roads of a flooded city. I cannot save 

anyone from drowning, but I am putting

you together bit by bit: an alphabet 

at a time. You will set my assemblage on fire.


A Landscape in Cobweb 


Amongst the many terrors of return,

is the vision of a precipice 

turned inside out – 

the imagined frottage: an 

evening of smashing open 

the flower-pots

of this city’s highrise balconies.

Yet, this promenade


 a hesitant foray 

into the unwritten ballad – 

of how entire wheatfields

rush into wallflower orchids,

remain lost, and reincarnate – 

as memento magnets.


A row of seven balsam-saplings 

on the balcony, the pots color-coded 

to resemble a rainbow: a vague 

effort to brush into existence 

a coffee-table reality: an as-yet 

untouched picturesque.


Iron-gates, walls veiled

with glass-shards; high as a forest-ranger’s

elephant. Barbed-wire driveways: 

this is where philanthropists

are sculpted out of pill-popping mansion-mistresses.


A smack, a deluge, a snuff-out– the desert

a crow carries into the porch on its beak. 

A scratch, a squeal: a plateau swimming

underneath her unslept ivory-bed. A rasp, 

a scrape, a squeak: the chirr of a porcelain

vase perforating. This is the sound 

of her carving poets out of makeshift mountains. 


A massacre has just been made beautiful 

in brush-strokes, and I am watching. Watching

and counting. Counting: how many seconds


does it take to hold someone

jumping from the rooftop. Or not.


In this return, I bring home nothing

but memories of evasion. The kind of barrenness

that inevitably follows an apology  —  I admit

I misread the wavering undulations of your chest

as pretension.

Nandini Dhar writes poems, essays and fiction in English and Bangla and is the author of Historians of Redundant Moments: A Novel in Verse (Agape Editions, 2016), Ma-Rupak Khelchhi Na (Aainanagar Prakashani, 2019) and Jitakshara (Aainanagar Prakshani, 2016). She is an independent media activist, and co-edits the micro-press Aainanagar with Madhushree Basu and Pramod Gupta.