The Fortnightly Doll Funeral by Nandini Dhar

 

A window in a room is a form of atonement, Mother says.
An atonement against the impenetrability of the bricks,

the cement that keeps the house together. Father never cuts
the grass in the courtyard; the abundance of wildflower red,

holocaust orange. Inside, the house-snake has laid its eggs.
From our corner near the window, we can hear

the snake-mother breathing. Our aunt stands behind
the door, wiping off the sweet crust of milk and sugar

from the baby’s lips. Baby does not wriggle its fingers.
Baby is a porcelain doll with the face of our aunt’s father,

closes its eyes when one pushes back its head. Black
eyelashes like arrowheads. This is the twenty-third

baby we have buried inside our home in the last eleven
months. Aunt keeps pushing them out of her belly.

Although, none of them ever learns to cry. No one
cares about finding them a coffin. Grandmother digs

a hole inside the kitchen floor with her shovel and axe,
Mother throws the babies in. Uncles clap. Aunt blinks,

we’re ordered to dance around the hole holding hands.
We do, singing Ring-a-ring-a-roses at the tops

of our voices. This is a song that Aunt taught us.
Aunt was a school marm, before all she wanted

to do was to have babies to play with.

 

NANDINI DHAR is the author of the chapbook Lullabies Are Barbed Wire Nations (Two of Cups Press, 2015). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Chattahoochee Review, Grist, Tusculum Review, West Branch, New South, and elsewhere. She is the co-editor of the journal Elsewhere. Nandini hails from Kolkata, India, and divides her time between her hometown and Miami, Florida, where she works as an Assistant Professor of English at Florida International University.