In her living room dimmed with drapes,
inside a green house brimming with
flowerboxes—humid, tiny, the buzzing
of lawns—stiff-lipped, crossing our legs,
we sip tea out of mismatched cups.

It is late summer in Pitman, New Jersey,
smell of marigolds, carrots pulled from dirt,
warm milk sloshing in pails.
                                               In front of me,
outline of a defunct spinning wheel
against the bay window.

                                        Behind me,
tufted couch cushions & a folded quilt
of crocheted roses.
                             To my right, a small stool
where I place my cup,
                                       to my left, long slab
of empty sofa.
                                Beneath my feet, Ada’s hand-
braided rug, a gift on her wedding night.
Above me, a wavering ring of light.

Beyond the bay window, baby oaks
eclipse a dirt road ploughed in furrows,
a lesson in geometry.
                            Beyond the couch cushions,
plaster partitions the yellow kitchen, egg yolks
separated from whites in two bowls.

Beyond to my right, a fireplace, stained glass,
creaky pews.
                 Beyond to my left, doubters
& zealots, a penny for your thoughts & Jesus
loves you, the entrance to a vacant bedroom.

Beyond below, the roller rink when Ruth
was 16, her pregnant unwed mother
& begonias that bloom even when overwatered.
                           Beyond above,
wood floors & closed doors, cupboards stocked
with Joy, the shuttered heat of day.

                           Beyond this summer,
peaches ripen in a ceramic bowl
& lazy July continuously unfolds
with the surprise of lollipops sucked
to nubs of gum hidden inside & sherbet hand towels
mimic peach fuzz.
                             Downstairs, I want to ask
if where we’re from ties down our lives but she
turns to face the Grandfather clock, which begins
to chime, counting us into a new
sleek hour, so familiar & grainy.


Write them on skins, with joined-up letters
         flooded like rivers. Do not craft them

on something as ordinary as napkins.
         Sing them operatic to martini glasses

quaking on sills, their shivered stalks
         a chain of mislaid commas, he said,

he said. If you happen to write down what she
         remembers in cold November, first layer

her tongue with salt, then chase it with Cuervo
         & lime. It will taste like kisses on an ocean

crusted night, her newborn legs thumping
         to a succession of waves calmly

shushing & erasing what she said.


“Throat pearls, yes, must be banished for their rounded sameness/constriction."
                —fromThe Lost Translations of Mirabai1

                           a greasy spoon’s sidewalk     littered with
cigarette butts smashed bubble gum stained black
          pitter pat             is what is expected       not
                  zebra stripes hand-painted on crosswalks
          nor constellations tracing any shape
decide what to exclude          what fingers draw
                       sky-slash-ocean   somewhere between midnight-
slash-winedark    because Homer had no word
          for blue      spake daybreak’s un/steady constant/
                 inconstant        sun glitter mimics           negative space
          of pigeons pecking crumbs    an ever-changing ink blot
lost in mornings of heavy rain         brooms scraping
                 against curbs                        static shushing my words
dewdrops-slash-beads of sweat      adorn my/her neck
1The book cited, The Lost Translations of Mirabai, is fictional, wished into existence, as are the lines quoted.


All day watching sky.
It’s like breathing

          you say, lost
          in the mangroves

tentacles untangling
from vines or

          the petrified remains
          of invertebrates.

A maze of twigs
set against sky. 

          At certain times
          opposing twigs bisect

my aperture like
examining my own nose

          cross-eyed. Glued to
          the heavens, I always

orient eyes-up
& you circle yourself

          in my nonexistent

Ellen Kombiyil

ELLEN KOMBIYIL is the author of the full-length poetry collection Histories of the Future Perfect (2015) and a micro chapbook avalanche tunnel (2016, Ryga). New work from her manuscript-in-progress, Love as Invasive Species, is forthcoming in Boston ReviewThe Fiddlehead, The National Poetry ReviewPrelude and Tinderbox. She has read, performed or taught workshops at Split This Rock, the Prakriti Poetry Festival in Chennai, the Raedleaf Poetry Awards in Hyderabad, and Lekhana in Bangalore, India. She is a co-Founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a mentorship-model poetry press publishing emerging voices from India and the diaspora. She currently lives in New York City and can be found at http://www.ellenkom.com.