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.