"Like Anne Carson, I write myself as nudes"

"Three Postcards"

Manahil Bandukwala

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
     English soil

     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.