A bleak day, but for the pale sun bruising the air
to a colour of wine. Across the street, a yellow
dollhouse on a tenement balcony, & scrawled
across it in red, a little girl’s initials I will not reveal.
But what it all stands for: the same flaring sadness
I felt leaving her house on mornings like this.
I remember the bright days after, the way I leaned
my forehead against the fogged glass door of the train
each morning, undulating along the brief stretch
of the cantonment, where the forest thinned
into a few trees, burnt ground, & a rampart of concrete
and barbwire. I waited every morning to see them
grazing on the periphery: three brown antelopes
I couldn’t name by taxonomy. Outside, soldiers
patrolled the morning with their mute rifles
across welted shoulders. And on some mornings,
I would see one of the three stray & break into
a careless lope, so gently, I imagined the underbrush
rising beneath the wake of its cloud feet must feel
something close to knowing you were loved.
The way I still felt then, towards the end,
as I lifted her brown hand from across
my collarbone, slipped into my poor clothes
in the half-light of the living room, & tiptoed
out of the house into the deepening dawn, before
the morning’s gleaming thumb could snuff out
any small fires we might have divined by night. 

Rohan Chhetri is a Nepali-Indian writer and translator. He is the author of LOST, HURT, OR IN TRANSIT BEAUTIFUL (Winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize 2018), JURASSIC DESIRE (Winner of the Per Diem Prize 2017), and SLOW STARTLE (Winner of the Emerging Poets Prize 2015).

A recipient of a 2021 PEN/Heim Grant for translation, his poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Revue Europe, AGNI and New England Review, Fulcrum, Rattle, Prelude, The Antigonish Review, and elsewhere. He has received poetry fellowships from the Norman Mailer Centre and Sangam House, and won awards from RædLeaf Poetry India and Toto Funds the Arts.