NABINA DAS // Four Poems
You can drive your pick-up over the night
a crow measuring its wings
not that the flight is far.
Right above the billboards
it sits stooping, feathers dropping
your spit, your eyebrow hair.
You follow a face of bright colors
the painter’s stroke tends bit by bit
into the leftover night’s inky tray
that chases behind your traveling truck.
You wake up to whistle at your crow-heart
absolute night on your body you knew
five villages away from a faded life.
Do you still remember, do you long for it?
A night it was mostly unchanged starlight.
The spinning top will circle
The dust from shuffling shoes
The dust from collared bones
And yet spin on the epicenter
On a Sarojini Nagar Sunday
The spinning top will be child’s play
For children whose feet will stop
Looking for the sudden blue sky
And the juggler who writes separated lines
To his hometown of buffalo snorts.
Work in Progress
Feet of frames
Walk up and down
Hope on and out
And I can paint
Pyramids from the breeze
Like prayer flags
Atop a little street slab
Stepped up straight
Temple of feet or fortune
For the Saturday god
Whose mother didn’t speak
Ill of anyone, he did.
The broomkeeper has seen
The dust fairies dance
When hungry in their stomachs
The corn-toaster has flinched
When the pavement rose
Gulped her corner
For the steel to stand
The feet to shuffle, leave.
And I can smell the dung
the sweat the jute ropes
On your back that you carried
Sometimes in the rain
Nodding to the choked voice:
Buy me bangles, get me dawns!
You said: take me by the hand
Let the corner start her song.
The blacksmith was
like my hand, its guile
coal-ed with soot and dirt-heavy
while I plunged
my tools into an abyss
where the city churned molten faith.
You sat in the street
corner of memory
right when your hutment reeled
like the anvil flowering up to a hammer so odd.
I bring my hand over
the flare now and show
how the nails are broken on their heads:
white nails, black nails, nails with salt tears
the iron rusted on our tongues so easily
this city carving on your neck a scythe of words.
The four poems published here are from Nabina Das' second collection
of poetry, Into the Migrant City, forthcoming from Writers Workshop, India.
Nabina Das’ debut poetry collection Blue Vessel (Zaporogue, Denmark) has been named one of the best poetry books of 2012, and the debut novel Footprints in the Bajra (Cedar Books, New Delhi) was longlisted in the prestigious Indian prize "Vodafone Crossword Book Award 2011". A 2012 Charles Wallace Fellow in Creative Writing, University of Stirling, UK, and a 2012 Sangam House Lavanya Sankaran Fiction Fellow, India, her second poetry collection Into the Migrant City, the product of an Associate Fellowship and residency with Sarai-CSDS (New Delhi) in 2010, is forthcoming soon from Writers Workshop, India. Nabina’s poetry and prose have been published in several international journals and anthologies, the latest being Prairie Schooner (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and The Yellow Nib: Modern English Poetry by Indians (Queen’s University, Belfast). Nabina is also a literary columnist to Prairie Schooner blog and is in the peer review committee of The Four Quarters Magazine published from northeast India. Nabina has won prizes in various major Indian poetry contests. A 2007 Joan Jakobson fiction scholar (Wesleyan University, US) and 2007 Julio Lobo fiction scholar (Lesley University, US), she has worked in journalism and media for about 10 years
(The Ithaca Journal, US; Tehelka news portal, Delhi). Trained in Indian classical music, she has performed in radio/TV programs and performed in street theater. Nabina teaches Creative Writing in classrooms and workshops, and blogs at