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Vismai Rao

the poet

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.

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the poems


00:00 / 01:55

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

and roads— 
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—

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00:00 / 01:30

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.

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00:00 / 01:23

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.

Stars jigsawed 
against the night.

And us,
acutely aware of them—

Publishing credits

Pursuits: The Shore

Roots: Salamander

Constellations: Parentheses Journal (Issue 8)

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