Back to Issue Forty-Two

Wasps at the Faucet


February, and there are wasps
at the faucet, flying in droves at dusk
to collect water to cool their nests.
They must carry each drop between
their legs without getting their wings
wet. It is a dance we do—me with a broom,
thrusting it between them as though
it were a pitchfork on fire. Their brief
confusion on the battlefield before
surging forward again. If only we could
turn away from each other in disenchantment,
renounce our harvest of sorrows. But here
is the world, egging us on with acres of low
grass, the beginnings of a silver tooth
of moon. Retreat, attack, on your knees.
This is your husk of time, decide.
In the scattering between thirst
and death, what will it be?


Coming to terms with the metaverse, which is making me feel old and sad


Call me Auntie, go on. Auction my kidney.
I want to feel something. I’m trying to understand
how a mining factory in Kazakhstan, which makes real
noise and sends real pollution into the air can produce
a coin you can’t touch. How the long dry season
can be turned into a flying cat or monkey cartoon
and this is suddenly worth something. It was easier
when you could just reach for the dog’s ears
and knew she’d succumb to the pleasure with a sweet
thunk of her head to sand, the ocean beyond
going crash boom, which meant time was coming
for you, and that was all right.
All morning the golden oriole
has been terrifying his rival in the window—kreeeee
kreeee kreeee, while his partner builds their nest—
twig upon actual twig, reed, sedge. We still need it,
don’t we? Soft opening into which to scream,
distant and mysterious as everything we have ever
been left out of. Even if there was a way to intercede,
to say, It’s you friend. The monster is you—
we’d be ruining it. We speak to the dead
on virtual shrines because they stopped knocking
on our dining room tables. Perhaps it has always
been this way—this morse code between us
and the universe. The way a poem pretends
to be a wish-giving tree, willing you to believe
that behind the wooden screens of its great
trunk is a secret deity with many arms
and a girdle of diamonds, hauling lotus
buds home from the flood
for you. Just you.


Tishani Doshi publishes poetry, essays and fiction. Her most recent books are Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award, and a novel, Small Days and Nights (Norton), shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. For fifteen years she worked as a dancer with the Chandralekha group in Madras, India. A God at the Door, published by Copper Canyon Press, is her fourth full-length collection of poems, and was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize 2021.

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