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Spring '24


every telugu household wakes up to suprabhatam

not mine         dawns are gauzy moons rising from charcoal casts

not mine         i failed to wake up the sun

today, yesterday and the day before


but i braid my dark hair carefully 

parting three roots

one        do        moodu

(i am scared one of them is weaker)

pulled apart by coconut and amla fingers

(my concoction has cedarwood too)

i use them like portable lists 

Ammamma’s hand-me-downs:

    a. bronze breasts

    b. tamarind throat

    c. slightly salty sambar recipe



my tongue of brittle backbone doesn’t know my name

Sannidhi     Alka      Rao              telugu (one)     [    ]    telugu (do)

two sentinels waiting for a vowel rounded enough

but my garu rolls like honey not jaggery

i will remain on this bridge

(they will have to wait; please      wait)

abandoned by a mother (tongue) whose womb i never birthed never kicked


till i learn what homeland means in a language

amma does not know to write

but that day is far

and this poem in english


a street here snakes past foot-wide pavements beaded with 

poppy hemp bags and leather wallets, past the cafe 

where High Monks play,

picking up vanilla marshmallows from Abidal’s Sabali and a chill 

that makes veins wrinkle all over

wrap over itself to hold warmth

                           do you feel it?


              you can walk down this street to meet the sun in Manali.


I have been here for just a day and the wind 

knows my name, carrying it 

to the distant gurgle 

(she knows where to find you – always)

                            do you hear it?

tossing, stretching it into a pizza rolling back

into a worn wish throwing it in the river 

now my name lies there with other names

glistening like wet buffaloes at noon.


The river owns my name now.

And I own the river my window holds.


a window with a river

a river of the window

a window that grew larger than its river


This window is a storehouse.


of grips and touches,

of faces without names

              of Abidal’s cinnamon rolls 

              and negotiated cheap hemp bag folds

of lovers who stood breathing the fog

while their hands fused


a wooden window

stainless steel handles

mounted lanterns on each side

with chrome polished hooks

a slight dent on the right one


a window with a river

a river of the window

a window that grew larger than this poem


where every cell squeezes

to make room for the emerald pine fog


                          you can walk down to meet autumn smoking weed while it rains in Manali.


this window has a blue and pink hemp bag and likes High Monks on Fridays.


This window is a postcard.

I send you this window.

                           Would you open it?

Sannidhi Alka Rao (@kavyamudrak) is a poet of South Indian origin based in Pune, India, where she works as a Software Developer. She spends her weekends writing and performing poetry that aims to leave an impact larger than her own existence.

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