by Nandini Dhar
(--Based on the folk-tale "What the Milk-Bird Said" compiled by A.K. Ramanujan in A Flowering Tree and Other Tales from India)
My mother, a half-dreamt face, can only pass on tales, already sung
what smells like burnt snakeskin. Weird, but harmless. Mothers
lack the powers to prevent. But they have lips and mouths, which can
curse. Words, when they roll out of mothers' tongues, can sprout into
trees, break into flowers, bear fruits. Mothers lack the power to prevent.
What they can do, is to make you suffer. Along with them. Even if you are
a goddess. That's what Setivi came to know when she became a widow. Some
boons come disguised as curses. Before mothers bolt them up below their
Nandini Dhar's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Muse India, Kritya, Mascara Literary Review, Off the Coast, Pratilipi, tinfoildresses, First Literary Review, Hawaii Review, Prick of the Spindle, Cabinet des Fees, Stone Telling, lingerpost, Up The Staircase, Cartographer: A Literary Review, Penwood Review and Asia Writes. A Pushcart nominee, Nandini grew up in Kolkata, India, and received an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Calcutta and another M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Currently, she is a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Literature at University of Texas at Austin.