Poems: a good daughter: an abstract painting and a note to the 16 year old self sneaking out at night


[Image Description: Photo of an unhappy young woman with closed eyes. The photo is taken through the rain covered window.]

Photo by Khoa Võ from Pexels

Poems by Nandini R. M. 

a good daughter: an abstract painting

i hear uncle ask father what does a good daughter
look like—
        telephone calls on hold? sneaking out in pajamas
        & coming back dipped in whiskey? hiding whiskers
        of cats under pillows? sorry mom sorry—
i did not ask God what a girl looks like when sinking in
the dearth—what does a mirror look like without a glass?
what is a girl & what is a daughter?
        ask me literature ranging from Shakespeare to Sylvia
        ask me how i bandage inflicted wounds on my knees
        ask me how i pull off a smile while crying—
do not linger around me with the question: how fine of a daughter i am
        because i do not know like i do not know enough of
        grammar to pull off the perfect sentence redden the cheeks
        of the boy i adore—like i do not know how to excavate moon
        & hang her in my balcony—selfish—like i do not know
        the anatomy of anger ricocheting in my throat
i do not know whether i am a synonym of a good daughter

a note to the 16 year old self sneaking out at night

all day you were out & i know you hated being a girl with brown parents calling— thirty seven missed calls. i doubt they saw Michael’s story of you sipping vodka. kill those fretful blinks. eat pretense. smile. apply kohl to your eyes. coconut lip balm: checked. the mirror doesn’t answer back. tie your red streaked hair back into a ponytail. hide it under the black hair which is as pure as your guilt you inherited from your grandmother— you hate lying—you hate liars—there is nothing wrong with carrying peer pressure in that small handbag and throwing it in the garbage stuffed in the green bucket outside your aunt’s house. you cannot hate yourself yet there is a desire to erase your past— erase it as cleanly as you do to the henna that didi doodles on your hand every fortnight. your sister is not in the kitchen. you look at your 17 year old friend’s whatsapp picture. you despise her trinkets but still write a compliment to her—& somehow you pronounce washroom as wass-room. your mother’s dialect hits you at night. at home. your mother tongue
clasps your throat. accuses you of ignoring her. you look back at your parents’ photograph hanging in the dining hall. what do you want? you question yourself. that friend brings you water and a handful of english words every week & whispers about cities and nonchalant guide books which tell you how to gulp vodka. she builds a barrier in your head & you inherit the fear of linguistic chauvinism unlike her ancestors did. you fret & change back into salwar kameez from
the little black dress. your sisters serve you both noodles and sesame fish curry. you go to bed with guilt sticking out as pimples on your face. mother suspects you study all night & sister agrees that you’re good at identifying lies clinging to human bones—zoology.

Nandini Rabindra Maharana (she/her) is a science student & writer based in Delhi, India. She was born in the year 2004. Her work has previously appeared in Aurora Journal, Bridge Ink Journal, etc. In her spare time, she reads novels and often writes some. She's a big fan of a good playlist. You can find more about her on: https://nandini.carrd.co