When the quotidian wrote our notes of isolation

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About Nabina

Nabina Das is a poet and writer born and brought up in Guwahati, Assam, and currently based in Hyderabad, Telangana. Her latest poetry collection Anima and the Narrative Limits is from Yoda Press. Her other poetry collections are Sanskarnama (Red River, 2017), Into the Migrant City (Writers Workshop, 2013), and Blue Vessel (Les Editions du Zaporogue, 2012).

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Her debut book is a novel titled Footprints in the Bajra (Cedar Books, 2010), and her short fiction volume is titled The House of Twining Roses: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped (LiFi Publications, 2014). Her first book of translations titled Arise out of the Lock: 50 Bangladeshi Women Poets in English (curated by Alam Khorshed, Chittagong) appeared in early 2022 from Balestier Press, UK.

A Rutgers-Camden MFA alumna, Nabina is the editor of WITNESS, The Red River Book of Poetry of Dissent (Red River, 2021), and co-editor of 40 under 40, an Anthology of Post-globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala, 2016). Nabina is a 2017 Sahapedia-UNESCO fellow, a 2012 Charles Wallace Creative Writing alumna (Stirling University, Scotland), a 2016 Commonwealth Writers features correspondent, a 2012 Sangam House, a 2011 NYS Summer Writers Institute, and a 2007 Wesleyan Writers Conference creative writing alumna.

When the quotidian wrote our notes of isolation

We were brought up by folks who respected the encrusted time,
wound their watches every morning, opened windows to days.

They swept the morning breeze with either their prayerful ways
or brisk footprints out about the gardens of mint and marigolds.

We were taught to eat with hands but not lick the fingers too much,
sometimes given spoons to scoop up manners away from the old world.

Also made to brush our shoes black as squeaky bumblebees on the run,
rub wet chalk every Saturday on the white canvaswear like ghost tales.

We were brought up by a man and a woman who valued hugging
and cracking a silly joke or two, elbows pirouetting at the dining table.

Solitude meant suddenly finding hand-holding as the unexpected.
Years have gone like oil slipping, taking away easy tactile closeness.

Nothing changed as we spotted snails in the grass. She still cooked
while he got the monthly grocery home, counting money with care.

Days of déjà vu-ing didn’t matter. He read the inscrutable Prufrock
in his gong-wide voice; she sang full throated. They didn’t call it therapy.

The music was always a rousing breeze through that receptive ceiling.
The food was quite reluctant to let its own vital aroma fade and die!

It’s not to say we did not hop mad after the moon or swoon in the rains.
We brought mud with our shoes, ran amok like twisters on the sleepy town.

He sneezed too hard some days and scared the alley cat, and she
scanned the city on her tiny feet, eyes lush gooseberries, her face small.

Nothing took the rhythm away from books and ink and weekends,
Ice cream treats, water colour tablets in tin boxes, the neat domestic talk.

Hidden within a textbook I read the Kamasutra, when the noon held
the neighbourhood on its lap in repose. Yet they cried: i-s-o-l-a-t-i-o-n.
What was missing, oh, what was missing, people sometimes asked:
Not doorknobs, not the bloody ancestors, not new birds on chipping beams.

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