Other
People ©

Click here to order a physical copy of Refraction!

Kalbelia

/ Ishika Rathi

Poetry — 3 min reading time

No. 4


Snakefriend. Formally based on a folksong, "काल्यो कूद पड्यो मेले में" (Kood Padyo Mele Mein), and visually based in a folkdance.

This poem is best experienced with the accompanying video and audio.


She dan / ces.
rippling reptilian mam / mal, dan / ces.
rippling reptilian mam / mal, sensu—
ality the sand at her feet.

aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She’s leap / ing—
shimmy to the shape of hissing, shoul / ders
slither in reminiscing, poongi
plays her sanskari geet.

aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She’s spin / ning—
other women are spin / ning, she’s spinning til
the o / ther women are di / zzy, kindle the
fla / ming at their feet.

aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She’s pain / ting
silk be / tween her cracked scales, coloured
scales be / tween her black scales, cobra skin,
she makes it sweet.

aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She’s turn / ing
sheer in the ris / ing moonlight. lehenga
sheer in snakeskin skylight. covers the
sun with a blackening sheet.

aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She’s knee / ling
open like a snake’s hood, her chudi
sprea / ding like a snake’s hood, knee
keep / ing our heart / beat.

aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She’s boun / cing—
hips sway as she’s walk / ing, one side of her
hip sways as she’s walk / ing. Head sway—
ing to the same reet.

aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She pla / ces
rings on the hard / ened sand, gold / en
rings on the gold / en sand, places them
on their diamond seat.

and then

She’s
bending.
like a cobra’s tail, She’s bending as it slides through a burrow,
She’s bending vertebrae—a reptilian mammal, She’s mending
her lehenga-choli into an exo-skeleton, She’s bending her forehead
to the sand left of a sea that emigrates me from her, I’m bending
back to the sand, She’s bending ‘til her eyelids find
those rings.

  aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She’s weaving her eyelashes through the gold ring—like sewing
shisha embroidery into the scales of our lehenga. She’s rising, watching,
gold-plated, diamond-shaped rings for eyes, reflecting
sanskar as a snake.

aa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra / RAH.

She cros / ses
hands with ano / ther dancer, merg / ing
lives with ano / ther dancer, she’s play
—ing fugdi, a game of release.

<prev

next>