Genres of Missing

Photography Jaie Miller
Photography by Jaie Miller


in benares, a vulnerable troika
of widows, hair shorn, flawless

scalps sculpted from minted ingot
three skull-shaped begging bowls

a prattle of wooden sandals bickering
in the decked promenades of marigolds

with their contused napes matting
a fatigued temple’s lukewarm plinth

here beetle-bellied priests dress marble
& metal in saffron-complexioned calico,

lead agarwood & sacred ash coronations
sweat the turmeric out of small, perfumed globes

here a mimesis of antediluvian
rudraksha moiling in a hoop of hands

here i watch the trinity limping, shrouded
in blurred clouds of coarse cotton

each strung to the other as
if a chorus of prayer beads

this city stretches them thin; the snapping rumor
of an old rubberband bandaging my wrist

i want to pat a shoulder, maybe
fold the moulder of a wet eyelid

in a street sobbing through its own cowbell cacaphony
here the alleys curl into plastic rosaries of paused traffic

once along this road, baba gifted me dante’s purgatory
now it snores an infant’s sleep in the cradle of my lap

i nuzzle its crisp contours
i smell the drying of its veteran ink & i am

back on the banks of Ganges, bells & lanterns
beginning to kindle in their rehearsed divertimento

in this latticed light, the city mirrors a turmeric
-daubed hindu bride on her wedding night

even then, the edge of my eye is threaded
to the shadow of a woman caught

between a river & a ghost

her hay-strapped bedding
her slender pail; her tender spine

soon, the crows will sweep these stairs
& the river will begin again to swallow

our dead floating above
its belly like torn wedding garlands


Benares – a holy city in northern india mired in the antithesis of worshipping women as goddesses while also serving as a dumpyard for widowed women abandoned by their families

IMG_1737 - Version 2


before you, the men were all rented –
tenants of parentheses, flatmates of  hyphens

cluttering the washbowl body – a crowd of plates
bargain china, stolen spoons, ancestral silverware

i learned to break their excesses
into an ellipsis of shards & spines

i learned to skin the silver
off each sinuous carcass

i learned to eat off the linoleum,
a wolf-grin staining each morsel

bent at the kitchen sink, i would sob
a songful gluttony, staccato of solvent

bubbling in the granite’s muzzle
the smut of  butter still warming

the wishbone,  i licked the scum
from the bloated bell of my thumb

a peculiar arthritis turning fingers
into forks, knuckles into pestles

before you, every dinner was dirty
with its own disaster, impatiently

teaching my mouth what was bought,
broken or battered to bury my hunger



a boy tells me my eyebrows are like irrawaddy dolphins
– black crayon cadence. bodies of wax, gloss & soap
i know i am                        turtle-nosed, magpie-eared
tarantula-tressed.         lips curled in a caterpillar crawl
dragonflies pressed into the wafer paper of my tongue
incisor glint of a silverfox, a sea of eggshells behind each pupil
(gorilla grunts! duckling giggles!)
when i move, it is as if i am    an oud chiselled from whalebones
through every sea that returns             me to my sum, i know
i am filling its edges – sometimes a shipshape anabasis of ants
but mostly as the daggered speed of aztec pumas
all that is soft about me has grown
from the thighs of a vulgar earth
i carry a beautiful wilderness
my body breaking                                 each sunbeam into a birdsong

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