Image: Susan Rothernberg – Limbo (2009-10)
Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a GREAT scholarship awardee, and has earned a second postgraduate degree in literature from England. Her work is forthcoming in In/Words Magazine, The Ofi Press, Bombus Press and elsewhere. She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal, an international literary journal. Her chapbook Synecdoche is forthcoming with The Poetry Annals (Oxford, England).
I see her sometimes, arising from folds of dark, hair left loose like tresses of cypress trees, holding an earthen lamp. Eyes lined in straight, neat kohl lines with enough light to illuminate curvature contours of her face. The last time I saw her wear a red saree was when nana was alive, but in flashes like these, I only see a silhouette of her face. I have yearned to meet a goddess after my mother’s death & have come to learn of grief as strength. Her face, pristine as morning sun reflects memory at night—the night she doesn’t come to visit becomes amavasya. If night is an elegy with melancholic sounds, then dawn is the numb hour when psalms from her marooned breath find way into my eardrums. If all light is god & god rises with the sun, she turns day into night & rises with the moon. The smell of an ocean lingers on her body. I see her without the grief I last saw on her face, after losing a daughter & being caged. I want to ask if she traveled back to Karachi to look at her ancestral house abandoned during partition & if all light is the shape of god. She leaves by turning into the shape of a diamond, gliding like a bird through gleams of space in the blue cirrocumulus.
In A Bombed City A Woman
Says Daughter For The First Time
In hell, they’re having a vanity fair.
In a recently bombed city, I pray
in a church built of wooden pillars—
& watch a woman give birth
the umbilical cord cut just like that,
like love grows & moves on
in blockbuster romantic movies
as the precision of a surgeon with a knife.
They have brought bread & water
in the name of the Lord, in his name
for all of us taking shelter in his inn.
Pardon me, Lord, but tell me if you are
a woman left on the brink of an ocean
looking out at birds, left to your solitude.
In a bombed city, a woman
says daughter for the first time.
I look at the face of the new mother—
every daughter is a gospel to her mother
& perhaps she thinks of an education
& good clothes & a good wedding for her
though the world has barely said its welcome.
We say Amen & break bread
ignoring fresh explosions heard outside—
Let us remember home is where we
spend nights being protected inside
its drying amniotic until the sun births anew.
Some believe in hell but those that
know earth well can’t tell the difference.