Rahana K. Ismail

Burn on my Mother’s Forearm

A moth alights on the clabbered cloudlet skin.
Brown sleep sprawled on wings, an embracing

moveableness in holding on still, a cotton-wooled
confession smudging the edges, all the leaflets I killed.

Or a browned dream she has no buzz-alarms for. A feathering
of child-earth tree-full green, never seen by her for the rill

to fill and well to fill from. A rush: wing-brush of steam.
The coal clunk, the revolutions to reach home. Prayers

her capillaries will hymn up with in falls to come. Jumbled
glyphs of an answer she had missed, Anatomy paper

next day each day. The slow burn. ‘Mothling’ changing shape
changing hands. You came from the mountains, we say, her

family, we all tan, and her skin snow, a lie, we know,
she lights up, her bones battling the coughing cooker and

the aluminium wok in martial rage, her eye-rolls
ventriloquizing genealogy across geography. This, I sense, is where

it all takes place, yet it’s not the scene, just the place. The moth
clings on to her fluttering frame, drinking dregs drinking

dregs. Sad pawprints of the mongoose before he dies in
the night-after dream. A new moth on a new day-tiffin

of yellowed rice and cabbage on her daisied skin.


Monsoon girled around to house her body, her long fingers drizzling to position. My grandmother taught me how to crochet. Slip knot. Having the amaranth yarn make the first hole is to open another hole another hole another hole. Drops soldier to a chain at the long-lashed eaves I don’t carry a pail to. Carrying loss is to open loss like a package: a snarl of yarn or a window you climb over when the bars fall away, the room you hear the ill

-oiled swing of a sewing machine, the foot treadle groaning a rust-ridden elegy. To be unable to search for my sea-glass quietude in the red-oxide drone. The way the bamboo cane chairs my skin in time-traceries. Drugged in desperation, the yarn breaststroking to safety—there is a kind of wide-eyed safety in distance, or so the thought, in moving away from initiality—yarn over, yarn through, yarn over, yarn through. But the truth that moving away can only be moving closer. Crocheting is

circling back to the first hole over and monsoon over. She taught me to celebrate absence by creating a whorl around it. Chingam-Kanni-Thulam-Vrischikam-Dhanu-Makaram-Kumbham-Meenam-Medam-Edavam-Mithunam-Karkadakam.

* Chingam-Kanni-Thulam-Vrischikam-Dhanu-Makaram-Kumbham-Meenam-Medam-Edavam-Mithunam-Karkadakam: months in Malayalam calendar

Sorrow Selkies her Bird-clothes

Sparrow prophesies
a thicket
of falls.

Winds lisp. Arrow
oozes in a creosote
of sandstorm.

Knitting lawns
into sails, a sun or a
spar. Row
of ships usurping

Inhered in itself
a recital
of springs par rowen-

Tussor rows
cupboards hid
among clematis

The lifer, the cen-
sor rowelled
into saying.

Oars or rowlock
which one to

In singing,
selkies her

Rahana K. Ismail is a poet and doctor from Kozhikode, Kerala. Her chapbook Newtness was released by Yavanika Press in 2022. Her poems have been featured or are forthcoming in the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English, Penn Review, Usawa Literary Review, Alchemy Spoon, nether Quarterly, Contemporary Haibun Online, Aainanagar, Aleph Review, Chakkar, Alipore Post, Last Leaves, Io Literary Journal (Refractions), Paradoxlit, Farmer-ish, Stone of Madness, Foxglove, Hakara, Qissa, Verse of Silence, Pine Cone Review, and elsewhere. 
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.