The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ellen Kombiyil’s “Histories of the Future Perfect”




When the lights went out block by block, June asked,
Are we under attack? Late afternoon

sun looked innocent, didn’t it, the whole
building filtered onto the sidewalk: Bob out

with the inhabitants, fiddling a shortwave,
June ticking inventory in her head

duct tape, garbage bags, battery 10 packs.


Growing up my secret name was Elizabeth
she had a house with black shutters a bed
with no creases rose-patterned sheets floorboards
wide not skeletal lavender-scented
pillows her bathroom not cramped like mine
strung with a glass-plated brass lamp that hung
shapes on walls scattered shadows across
octagonal rugs poppy-print paper
screamed too bright like my polyester dress
worn consecutive Sundays hers rustled
glamorous a gold shimmer that turned it
into the powder room of a palace


On the back
of battery packs
they show you
minus and plus
instructions are simple
imprinted on plastic
minus plus plus
minus minus plus
lining up little
cells snug in
beds until the
light glows green


Smile like those tiara’d gals
riding convertibles in my Momma’s
hometown parade, the way they stand
so proud, hair pinned up and sprayed
bouffant so they can wave cupped hands
and smile: Smile, Elizabeth, smile.
There’s no hole you can’t fix.


The day of no more water
we will vanish like patterns
left back cracked and spilling salt
craters gaping and vacant
pink dawn over desert our mouths
beautiful and awful all at once

This selection comes from Ellen Kombiyil’s book Histories of the Future Perfect, available now from Great Indian Poetry Collective. Purchase your copy here!

Ellen Kombiyil is the author of “Histories of the Future Perfect” (2015). A recent transplant from Bangalore, India, where she lived for nearly 11 years, she is a founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, an mentorship-model literary press specializing in innovative books from India/Indian diaspora. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has read, performed or taught workshops at the annual Prakriti Poetry festival in Chennai, the Raedleaf Poetry Awards in Hyderabad, and Lekhana in Bangalore. Originally from Syracuse, New York, and a graduate of the University of Chicago, she now lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

T.A. Noonan is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently The Midway Iterations(Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015), Fall (Lucky Bastard Press, 2015), and The Ep[is]odes: a reformulation of Horace (Noctuary Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in Reunion: The Dallas ReviewMenacing HedgeLITWest Wind ReviewNinth LetterPhoebe, and others. A weightlifter, artist, teacher, priestess, and all-around woman of action, she is the Vice President and Associate Editor of Sundress Publications.


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