Girls Are Coming out of the Woods

by Tishani Doshi



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556595509
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 378,065
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Tishani Doshi was born in Madras, India. She is an award-winning poet, journalist, essayist, and novelist, whose work has been translated into five languages. Doshi is also a professional dancer with the Chandralekha Troupe. She lives in Tamil Nadu, India, with her husband and three dogs.

Read an Excerpt

Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods

for Monika

Girls are coming out of the woods,

wrapped in cloaks and hoods,

carrying iron bars and candles

and a multitude of scars, collected

• n acres of premature grass and city

buses, in temples and bars. Girls

are coming out of the woods

with panties tied around their lips,

making such a noise, it’s impossible

to hear. Is the world speaking too?

Is it really asking, What does it mean

to give someone a proper resting? Girls are

coming out of the woods, lifting

their broken legs high, leaking secrets

from unfastened thighs, all the lies

whispered by strangers and swimming

coaches, and uncles, especially uncles,

who said spreading would be light

and easy, who put bullets in their chests

and fed their pretty faces to fire,

who sucked the mud clean

• ff their ribs, and decorated

their coffins with briar. Girls are coming

• ut of the woods, clearing the ground

to scatter their stories. Even those girls

found naked in ditches and wells,

those forgotten in neglected attics,

and buried in river beds like sediments

from a different century. They’ve crawled

their way out from behind curtains

• f childhood, the silver-pink weight

• f their bodies pushing against water,

against the sad, feathered tarnish

• f remembrance. Girls are coming out

• f the woods the way birds arrive

at morning windows—pecking

and humming, until all you can hear

is the smash of their miniscule hearts

against glass, the bright desperation

• f sound—bashing, disappearing.

Girls are coming out of the woods.

They’re coming. They’re coming.

Ode to Patrick Swayze

At fourteen I wanted to devour you,

the twang, the strut, the perfect proletarian

butt in the black pants of you. I wanted a man

like you to sashay into town and teach me

how to be an aeroplane in water. I didn’t want

to be a baby. I wanted to be your baby.

I wanted revenge. I wanted to sue my breasts

for not living up to potential. I wanted Jennifer Grey

to meet with an unfortunate end and not have a love affair

with a ghost. At fourteen, I believed you’d given birth

to the word preternatural, and when Mother came

home one day, waving her walking shoe, saying,

I lost my soul in the Theosophical Society,

I wanted to dance as recklessly as the underside

• f that shoe. I wanted to be a pebble in the soft

heel of you. To horse-whisper and live on a ranch

in Texas and love my blonde wife forever and have

creases around my eyes and experience at least one

goddamn summer where I could be like the wind—

sexy and untrammelled and dirty. And it was only

after I found my own Johnny (and got rid of him),

• nly yesterday, when I rescued a northern shoveler

from crows on the beach, his broken wing

squished against the crockery of my ribs,

• nly after setting him down at the edge

• f a canal, where he sank in to the long patient

task of dying, that I realized what I’d wanted

most was to be held by someone determined

to save me, someone against whom I could press

my unflourishing chest, who’d offer me

not just the time of my life, but who’d tear

• ut reams of his yellowing pancreas,

and say, Here, baby, eat.


Dear Reader,

I agree to turn my skin inside out,

to reinvent every lost word, to burnish,

to steal, to do what I must

in order to singe your lungs.

I will forgo happiness,

stab myself repeatedly,

and lower my head into countless ovens.

I will fade backwards into the future

and tell you what I see.

If it is bleak, I will lie

so that you may live

seized with wonder.

If it is miraculous, I will

send messages in your dreams,

and they will flicker

as a silvered cottage in the woods,

choked with vines of moonflower.

Don’t kill me, Reader.

This neck has been working for years

to harden itself against the axe.

This body, meagre as it is,

has lost so many limbs to wars, so many

eyes and hearts to romance. But love me,

and I will follow you everywhere—

to the dusty corners of childhood,

to every downfall and resurrection.

Till your skin becomes my skin.

Let us be twins, our blood

thumping after each other

like thunder and lightning.

And when you put your soft head

down to rest, dear Reader,

I promise to always be there,

humming in the dungeons

• f your auditory canals—

an immortal mosquito,

hastening you towards fury,

towards incandescence.


There must be a word for a person

who longs to run into the eye

• f a storm, a word for every tree

that lies slaughtered on the streets

after a cyclone. A word like lachrymose

• r pulmonary. A word for they have left

you alone to face your doom. In Aleppo.

In Aleppo. I cannot speak of Aleppo.

Only that it is the opposite of breath.

There must be a word for the walk

home at night. Your belongings in two bags,

feet in mud. For a family thinking they will return.

Maybe the house still stands. Maybe the sea.

The dead leave no clues about what lies beyond.

We call it eternal. We call it now.

Summer in Madras

Everyone in the house is dying.

Mother in an air-conditioned room

cannot hear as rivers break their dams

against her nerves. Father stalks verandas,

• ffering pieces of his skin to the rows of lurid

gulmohars. Husband tries to still the advancing

armies of the past by stuffing his ears with desiccated

mango husks. And brother? Brother is most lackadaisical of all.

He opens the door. Takes death’s umbrella. Taps it this way and that. Sings.

Table of Contents

Contract 3

Summer in Madras 7

Rain at Three 8

A Fable for the 21st Century 9

What the Sea Brought In 11

How to be Happy in 101 Days 13

Fear Management 16

Everyone Loves a Dead Girl 18

Monsoon Poem 20

Ode to Patrick Swayze 23

Abandon 27

To My First White Hairs 28

Considering Motherhood While Falling Off a Ladder in Rome 32

Love in the Time of Autolysis 34

Jungian Postcard 36

Girls are Coming Out of the Woods 38

Strong Men, Riding Horses 40

Disco Biscuits 42

Honesty Hotel for Gents 44

My Grandmother Never Ate a Potato in Her Life 46

Your Body Language Is Not Indian! or Where I Am Snubbed at a Cocktail Party by a Bharatnatyam Dancer 49

Saturday on the Scores 52

The Women of the Shin Yang Park Sauna, Gwangju 54

Tranås 56

Encounters with a Swedish Burglar 57

Pig-Killing in Viet Hai 58

Calcutta Canzone 61

Understanding My Fate in a Mexican Museum 64

Dinner Conversations 66

The Leather of Love 68

O Great Beauties! 73

Clumps of Happiness 76

Meeting Elizabeth Bishop in Madras 77

Grandmothers Abroad 80

Poem for a Dead Dog 82

Find the Poets 84

The Day Night Died 87

Coastal Life 89

The View from Inside My Coffin 91

Portrait of the Poet as a Reclining God 94

When I Was Still a Poet 97

Acknowledgements 98

About the Author 99

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