Four Good Words: Tishani Doshi

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Tishani Doshi is an award-winning poet, novelist and dancer. Her most recent books are Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Poetry Award, and a novel, Small Days and Nights, shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Tata Fiction Award. A God at the Door (poems), is forthcoming in spring 2021.

I Found a Village and in it Were All our Missing Women
I.M. Margaret Mascarenhas

I found a village and in it were all our missing women,
holding guns to the heads of birds.

They’d heard the voting had begun,
that it had been going on for years without them.

They knew their sisters had been bribed
with gas cylinders and bicycles, that even grandmas

grabbed bags of rice in exchange at the ballot.
They showed no resentment.

Left all their gold to the descendants
of a Mongolian war princess with whom they shared

a minor percent of DNA. I found a village, a republic,
the size of a small island country with a history

of autogenic massacre. In it were all our missing women.
They’d been sending proof of their existence —

copies of birth and not-quite-dead certificates
to offices of the registrar.

What they received in response was a rake
and a cobweb in a box.

The rake was used to comb the sugarcane fields
for wombs lost in accidental hysterectomies.

The cobweb box became an installation
to represent the curious feeling

of sitting backwards on a train — of life
pulling away from you even as you longed to surge ahead.

They were not fatalistic. Could say apocalyptic fatigue
and extinction crisis in quick succession

after several rounds of Mai Tais.
I found a village with a sacred tree

shot free of all its refugees,
in whose branches our missing women had hung

coloured passport photos of themselves.
Now listen

A woman is not a bird or chick or anything with wings,
but a woman knows the sound of wind

and how it moves its massive thighs against your skin.
The sound of house swallowed by sinkhole,

crater, tunnel, quicksand, quake.
The collective whoosh of a disappearing,

the way a gun might miss its target,
the way 21 million might just vanish.

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