"Like Anne Carson, I write myself as nudes"
Manahil Bandukwala is a Pakistani writer and artist currently living in Ottawa. Her most recent project is Reth aur Reghistan, a multi-disciplinary exploration of Pakistani folklore. She is the author of two chapbooks, Paper Doll (Anstruther Press, 2019) and Pipe Rose (battleaxe press, 2018). She was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize, and won Room magazine's Emerging Writer Award in 2019. Her work has appeared in Briarpatch, The Puritan, and Room.
"'Like Anne Carson, I write myself as nudes' builds off Carson's The Glass Essay, drawing specifically on the nudes that appear throughout the long poem."
"'Three Postcards' were given to me by a dear friend, who got each one from a different place she visited. I keep the postcards above my desk."
Nude #1 is Self as waterlogged boots, a green sky
puddles. Self as skyscraper or umbrella
or anything wet. Nude #2 not a deck of cards
but knife stand as deck. Each knife
removed, sharpened, replaced. Nude #3. Painting
of Selfhood would be a Magritte. This is not
a Self. #4 says atmosphere
instead of walls, transparent
as colour. Suck those hibiscus blossoms
of their nectar. Nudes #5 and #6 look down
from an aerial view
dull concrete becomes a geometry
so I become a bird. A bird
who coasts on a pink line between somewhere
and Self. Nude #7 while a translucent raincloud
static ball of energy pulses thru water.
Self as electric shock. Self
implies Self without a body or gender
or grief. #8 is a plaque. All it says
is Self. Nude Self without clothes or skin
or flesh. Blood is capable
of walking. Nude #9. Don’t want to be
a city skyline. Don’t want
to be an empty beach town in winter.
Don’t want to be the split-second curl
inside saltwater waves.
i. Pho cart in Oxford Circus
I expected clowns & trapeze silks but this
is not London.
London, I learn, is where colonialism went to hide
in the twentieth century. Where moors
& cobbled streets are a lie. Everything is scribbled
except for one pho cart, blot of orange replaces smoke
with salty steam. A cyclist adds hoisin sauce
to a Styrofoam bowl, bikes off with one hand
on handlebars, one hand clutching bowl, mouth
slurping noodles. Charged wires
slice from building to building but this
is London. The birds flew away one winter
& never came back.
ii. Kew Gardens, a pageant of flowers
Also London, where the letter Q is copyrighted
by the Queen. A brown poet found themselves
the brownest thing in pastures full of Englishmen
& sheep. This was before they could write
poems about city smog & trams, so from a single
lychee skin carried across a continent
blossomed a red garden. Any birds
left in London perch here. Any flowers in this choked-up
city poke their heads out between bushes.
Any laughter is children playing hide-and-seek
in the hollow of the first tree
a brown poet sat beneath, where they first found
that matched the colour
of their skin.
iii. Tea map of Ceylon
A collection of trade routes from Denmark & England
& Australia & New Zealand
fills the island up. An island
that is nothing
but tea & elephants that carry tourists
around the perimeter. At the northern end
of the teardrop is a place not marked
on this map, a hotel carved
into mountain rock. With all the elephants
there is no place left for monkeys
& lizards, even though I once counted seventy lizards
on a single ceiling. If there was an accurate postcard
in the shop, it’s still collecting dust.