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How My Grandmother Exited the Last Harbor

by Sneha Subramanian Kanta

     -for nani


from Karachi is a story she has told me a hundred times
& the thing about repeatedly told stories
is like when a country is a broken bone lodged in the knee

mouth stuffed with flags
instead of food

that follows a ship into the dawn
of another country
of an unfamiliar shore
unknowing of syllables other than the lost.

When I ask my grandmother about her beloveds
she says there are no graves for the ones that burn
into the marrow of a country
into the marrow of a country

& then rain——
somebody has left paper boats sailing
over muddy waters

because her eyes saw God in hunger
she leaves morsels of food for birds
says the same bad luck does not come twice
says empire will collapse like a flower burst.

For escape, she carried old photographs,
two brothers, and a marigold in her frock.
Left a house, a language,
girlhood, and a country.

How did you escape in scant light? I ask.
With the help of a fractured beam, she says.


When I was a young girl,
my grandmother took me to a nearby garden
where we collected wounded butterflies
& brought them home
& placed them into handmade cardboard houses
with apertures to breathe
with feed to thrive.

After a few days when they were ready to fly again
we stood in our balcony & released them into the sky.


When they go, colonists leave behind a mutilated world.
My grandmother sings abhangas for lost bodies.

Who cleans the blood after a war?
Those one acquainted with hunger.

Whose blood is spilled on the walls and floors of a country?
The refugees’.


My grandmother knits blobs of mogra
& sings in praise of oceans, saying——

for every hundred names of terror
there is an ocean to help escape

unlike land, divided into parts
all oceans are singularly water.

Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a recipient of the 2022 Digital Residency at The Seventh Wave and the 2021 Robert Hayden Scholarship at Stockton University. Her poems are forthcoming in Pleiades, Cream City Review, the minnesota review, and elsewhere. Kanta is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal.