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Poetry — Kashiana Singh

Architecture of Death

rooms after dead people


are like wells

an aroma of velvet lichen

that glisten over narrow

curves of its walls 

the water within 

stagnant, brackish, mute

rooms after dead people


are like wells 

people peering inside 

the bodice of its edge

their shadows blooming

weeping willows resting

against embalmed edges

Functions of a Saree


I always tried to get their shade right, the commemorative fuchsias a disaster spilling sky waiting to break open. Matching a choli, its strings as important as a seatbelt in a new car. The giddy 9 yards surrounding my curves, neither the naughty bandhani nor my spilling body knowing when to flow in a straight line. Like a river it climbed over waiting stones, touching unspoken talismans of places that existed before being found, rummaging through my veins. Its caress visited the creaks and crevices of my ruffled geography, depositing strange feelings. Together our anatomy unwieldy.


Later, like birds forming into poems, I walked with a spring in my step, each chamber of my heart beating with the precise colors of jewelled flowers. They swooned into the sarees my nani had left behind, neatly stacked in her locked closet. A mosaic weave, reflecting light like the stained glass in silent churches. Folded in a crisp brown bag, it sat in a stoic samadhi on reluctant shelves of her antique cupboard. Years of delicate attar lingered beneath the sarees, nani’s unseen life becoming mine as I felt their niggling textures. Preening in front of the longing mirror, my cheeks pinched blushed, my eyes dripping with kohl canoes. Reminders of the woman tugging to exist inside the tightness of a petticoat. Her favorite turquoise benarasi embraced me, consuming me into itself as a lover ever would, as naked. Hypnotized.


These days when I undrape my saree, I creep back into my body, my ample darkness a snake moving backwards, climbing into its own metallic skin, untangling it from the aftermath of a perforated monsoon creek. My determined flesh refuses to be curtained into perfect shapeliness. It stays, stubborn like the crumpled pallu of a muslin jamdani. The black and lilac embellished satin saree nani wore on her last birthday hangs lopsided, an unmended pendant waiting to be worn.


Soon, I will wait behind that paisley jamdani saree as it animates my window, the oceanic gauze of its warp and weft will sieve light into the shimmering map of my hypnotized body. It will stay unaffected. Meanwhile, I will invoke the rubble of scars beneath an untarnished kanjeevaram, letting them bleed into the luster of its lissome gold borders.

silkworm spins

itself into a grave -


In the image of my mother

I can bask in the sunshine of 

of watching my mother halt

her day—

after she was done carving

meaning into our lives

as she etched our days

with syntax

of lunch boxes

with storytelling

under whirring fans

with petulant warmth

of a fresh casserole

with newly learned

dessert platters, sweet

with nights offered on

her lap, birth scents

with lessons crafted

from filigree of aches

with mystery found

in garnet drops, shapely

with clicking tic tac

of long knitting needles

with bookshelves

encased in first words

I remember relishing a few moments

of crying into her diaphragm


her voice a clasp around our lives

her hair swirled in a prosaic bun

shaped like a cloud, introspecting

she came alive, play-acting scenes

from famous silent movies 

I half remember relishing her voice

sashaying into our bland rooms as

it hummed, sang, scolded or stayed

just stayed. silently.

I indulge, in remnants of her fading image

palpable, the pot boils over as if rebuking

me, I roll up my

hair into a rare bun

her syllables inhabiting me

from an unnamed distance.


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