Vismai Rao's poems have appeared in several journals, including Salamander, RHINO, Indianapolis Review, Rust + Moth, Glass: A Journal of Poetry and SWWIM. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Orison Anthology. She lives in India.
Mother says she hasn’t found herself yet and there’s
little time. She holds an old ceramic mug in one hand
a drill bit in the other and is intently watching a man
on YouTube put holes into things: it’s how you make vessels
suitable for saplings, apparently.
Her windowsill is a long row of wine bottles
with no wine, all sorts of ivies and ferns pouring out
her bathroom mirror a bay of newly acquired post-its
with little messages to self— beyond is where she looks
to put on her day cream.
Afternoons she trades sleep
to sit with her sketch sheets & HB pencils bent over houses and fruit,
hillsides stark with shadow & light, drawing herself
out of a canvas of abstraction.
From old photographs she copies faces & hands, draws tall
vases with still dahlias, seashores
miles & miles of roads, it’s how she masters perspective—
all her roads pointing to dimensionless dots
at their respective horizons: here on paper,
how easily they reach their ends—
When I think of you I think of a goat tethered to a pole, you inside your cubicle leashed to the spiralling end of a long chain of events. Hello you say, day after day. How may I help you?
On Sundays I bake and philosophize on how breath trapped inside a reed sings when freed. And we deconstruct freedom on the kitchen counter, on the three-seater couch, on bright satin bedspreads—
down to its last molecule. A pinprick in a dream— is what we conclude it is. And you wake into another dream with arms covered in pinches. My yoga instructor says Exhale and Release while I knot myself into impossible poses. And then unknot.
In December the flamingos fly down from north and drop anchor until the rains. Wings too, can only take you so far.
Banyan trees alone are free, going where they will, making bridges out of roots.
All night we try to pluck out constellations from our feeble
knowledge of astronomy. There is no moon
but there is light enough—
The sky: black
the mountains, blacker.
I am certain
this isn’t a dream, even though you
can no longer corroborate this memory.
Even though I’m left
too many uncorroborated memories—
I don’t recall a single word
we spoke. My neurons are firing
things at me now:
interstellar travel, our latest
loves, maya: the mother of illusions, but I know
these are from other nights—
Of this one I remember
close to nothing.
against the night.
acutely aware of them—