Strictly In Place

Nandini Dhar


The walls thicken under the weight

of the photographs, making


it impossible to ascertain

the words in the declarations outside.


You coveted a new word—

a palaver that would replace


the cacophony outside: the bus

conductors shouting out loud


the destinations, the seven-year old

walking after you, imploring –


didi, ekta dhupkathi ne na


the walking ensemble demanding

artefacts more than an intricately-carved


coffee-table. You demand nothing

that cannot be bought.


Between you and me is the silence

of a muezzin who announces the news


of a crackdown. The silence of the knowledge

that the messengers are always shot, locked up


in prisons made of bricks

other than their own petulance.


Forgive me, sister-poeta. In your

search for combativeness


in brushing the porcelain,

I find nothing other than a belated


irrelevance. The business of building

new words unfinished,


you hang yet another picture

on the wall – a daughter leaning


over in a one-sided embrace

with a father too stern to smile.

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