The Wardobe’s Best Dressed: Bird of the Indian Subcontinent by Subhashini Kaligotla


Reading Plato

I think I’ve inherited my mother’s
aversion for the mot juste. Why say

“pregnant” when “expecting” or “carrying” will
do just as well, and bloodlessly?

Even speaking Telugu she shifts
to English and back to forego the word.

One afternoon when I was twelve
I stole to the kitchen, careful to avoid

my brother’s incomprehension
of taboo and his disregard or circumlocution.

I’m dying, I’m dying, like the Uncle
whose duodenal ulcer had burst,

the one the Doctor and Daddy couldn’t
save with liters and liters of blood.

She was not alarmed. “Here, put this
in your panties,” she said,

handing me a plump, plastic packet,
and sending me back to my books without

a word, a name, not even a stand-in
for the body’s change. Why words? What lies

in them? “Bed” is not the physical thin
of spokes and springs, not even a picture of it.

Lips meet, throat hums, tongue touches tooth, then
a final breath—thrice removed from truth.

This selection comes from Bird of the Indian Subcontinent, available from the (Great) Indian Poetry Collective. Order your copy here. Our curator for October is Tausha Fouts.

Subhashini Kaligotla is a poet and architectural historian of medieval India. A graduate of Columbia University’s MFA program in Creative Writing and a Kundiman poetry fellow, she has published in such journals as The Caravan, diode, LUMINA, New England Review, and The Literary Review. Anthology appearances include collections of Indian and diaspora poetry, most notably Penguin India’s 60 Indian Poets and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets. Kaligotla is Assistant Professor of South Asian Art at Yale University.

Tasha Fouts is the 2018-2019 SAFTA Writer in Residence at Firefly Farms.  She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University.  Her work has appeared in Salt Hill, Bateau, Glass, Birds Piled Loosely, and Small Portions.  She is a co-founder and an editor at Packingtown Review and hosts the podcast Getting Drunk with Writers.

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