MORALITY PLAY by Nandini Dhar

by Nandini Dhar


A weapon – an assemblage
that knifes through this lattice
of unspoken tales;
this assurance that no one
would force open
the book shut-close
long ago.

This was how
I was supposed
to witness the doggerels
these cobblestones write.
This was the lesson
I was meant
to memorize.


Luminosity is a chewed bone,
a machine-gun. I

am rumbling
into a keening beginning

the future
of this future

A hole in the seam
of my shirt

an un-ironed wrinkle
in faded silk,

I am dragging
behind myself

the weight of a broken
mosque, the barely

articulated details
of a minor pogrom,

the torn pages
of an epic

that spans continents.
When I bump

against a lamp-post,
I stop. Stop

to see my face
in someone else’s spittle.


To suffer from the redundancy
of those who came late: no
last notes from comrades who left,
no immaculately plotted atlas
for comrades yet to come – nothing
I write, say, sculpt or mould
would be seriously annihilating,
disassembling or an original treatise
on how to form secret alliances.
The sound of a thumb
tapping the ash off
the ends of a cigarette. A
cup of coffee, shared
between three. An account
of an exemplary birth – inside
the overflowing ashtray – this is how
I steel myself for a strife
with everything
that can be held
between human hands – a porcelain
bowl, a ceramic jug,
the picture on the wall. A flap
of the sparrow’s wings,
a tossed salt-shaker
on the cafe floor – a dialect
that is yet to exist
has just been pushed
into the half-lit
walls of the century-old
coffee house. A remembrance
of how men, who
could not agree on anything
save and except a palaver
beyond cauterized beginnings
are made to account
for the legend. A girl
they had all avoided
an intimate acquaintance
with, extinguishes the brick-home
with a swat of her fingers,
her limbs stretching
and stretching
beyond the walls
of her father’s house. A
dilapidated coffee-house
is what she needs
to spread herself.
The girl is not the city – I
make her walk
the city, tracing
every single etch left
on the withering tree-branches
by the car-honks.

Nandini Dhar is the author of the book Historians of Redundant Moments (Agape Editions, 2017). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New England Review, Memorious, New South, Best New Poets 2016 and elsewhere. Nandini hails from Kolkata, India, and after living in the US for 15 years, she has recently gone back to her home country, where she works as an Associate Professor of Literary Studies at OP Jindal Global University.


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