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By Rajiv Mohabir

for Rajwantie Baldeo

“ ...Rajwantie Baldeo was viciously murdered...And where was the outcry from our community? Did we hear anything at our kitchen tables? Did we hear anything at our mandirs [temples]?” —Nadia Bourne


A twist of cotton
daubed in oil
catches flame, an echo

of starlight whose fire
you will enter
as if the trial

were not your husband’s,
named Prem which means
love, with his machete

hands who cut you down
after paying
your passage to Liberty

Avenue, from whose breath
amber with rum,
a demon springs

into limb and shadow
and spits knives;
he bruised you plenty

before but the neighbors
closed their blinds,
silenced mantras that lead

from falsehood
to truth, from dusk
to light and turned up

their Soca Chutney,
now you lay, Bahini,
a red river mouth,

Sita swallowed by the earth
proving her chastity
to Ram who betrays her.

Last night at Naresa’s
see the Queens
neighbors gather, each one

clutching a candle
but it’s too late to chant
sarve bhadrani pashyantu

may all be free of suffering
or for me to say
I’ve lit my clay lamp

and you are the flicker
I shield with a poem.

Added: Thursday, July 20, 2017  /  Used with permission.
Rajiv Mohabir
Photo by Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada.

Rajiv Mohabir is the author of three collections of poetry including Cutlish (Four Way Books 2021) which was awarded the Eric Hoffer Medal Provocateur, longlisted for the 2022 PEN/Voelcker Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He also authored the memoir Antiman (Restless Books 2021) winner of the Forward Indies Award for LGBTQ+ Nonfiction, and was a finalist for the 2022 PEN/America Open Book Award, 2021 Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, and 2021 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir/Biography. As a translator, his version of I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (Kaya 2019) won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2020. He teaches in the MFA program at Emerson College and lives in the Boston area.

Image Description: Rajiv Mohabir sits in a green shirt, jeans, and glasses with his hands clasped on pōhaku lava rock with the Moananuiākea and Makapu'u islands behind him.

Other poems by this author