POETRY – 5 Poems by Vaishnavi Nathan


Why are we taught to give love and not receive love? Does this apply to girls more than boys? Or is it just an Asian thing? What’s your favorite cereal? Still the one you had when you were 6?

Do you think morality is universal or relative? Would you call the night after? If no, please explain. Do you believe in God? Why do agnostics and atheists still exclaim “oh my god”?

What does it take to block someone? Guilt or callousness? So, what do you normally eat at home? Do you like your job? Are you willing to relocate? What are you afraid of?

Milk or sugar for your coffee? Or both? Will your folks be happier if you made more money? Do you brush your teeth before or after a shower? Would you believe me if I told you there’s magic in the universe?

Do you ask yourself what you’re doing with your life? As if you knew? Does it always, except sometimes, take you 2 weeks to call back? If you pick up after the third ring, whom shall I say is calling?


You prefer to love with a fistful of red m&ms

Abandon all rules at the gates of horn and ivory

There is no sunset clause

I prefer to watch you dress than undress

While reading the Myth of Sisyphus

Calculating the satirical tragedy of the commons

I’m running out of metaphors

Why does it always have to be metaphysical with you

I don’t know where this poem begins


Robert wears dark, worn-out shirts
To match his dark, worn-out vigor.

Robert eats all the bread at night.
Robert relates in a food related way.

You know this because
You used to drown a sleeve of Oreos

In a tall glass of milk
To meet validation at the bottom.

Mother surely knows.
Bones are homes.

Get acquainted with her rib bones,
Collarbones, hip bones and cheekbones.

Mother means well.
You mean well.

Robert means well.
Robert will deal with it tomorrow.


At the cusp of blooming
you don’t trust your hands.
A game of cricket you learned how to
play when you were younger
but now you keep on running. Further.
You think of all the wrong
ways to love someone.
You insist it’s not a big deal
and she wonders how much of what
weighs her down is not hers to carry.
Don’t go, she’ll tell you.
We should lie naked and
listen to music all the time.
It took three months for
a reckless text to escape
your circumspect hands.
Don’t think about the
choices that you make.
Don’t think about the
Don’t bring tomorrow
because she already knows
she’ll lose you.
2am, her eyes squint at the bright lights
between her hands,
your words scorching.
In the pockets of stillness,
you knew all along that the only heart
would break was hers.


Fishnavi. Vashinari. Vishvani.
Vashnav. Va…umm.

My name, as if it were a wet bar soap,
fumble on first encounters.
I stop correcting them.

The coterie made me believe
that accommodating everyone is
the easiest way to assimilation.

“Oh, do you have another name?”
“Anything short?”

“Yes, it’s a mouthful. V, will do.”


“V for Vietnam?”

I, casually, negate myself from
the primitive part of me –
my name, my Indian ancestry.

“Could I have a name to go with the coffee order?”
“Whom shall I say is calling?”
“Hi! Please introduce yourself to the team”

Just V. Barely V. Almost there V.
Chronic censorship to accommodate you.

“My name is Vaishnavi.”
Vai – ish – ner – vee
Don’t be afraid to roll your tongue.

Take your time with it.
I am patient.
Now, say my name.

Vaishnavi Nathan is passionate about using language to explore one’s identity, social change and the various mediums of arts and culture. Her work has been published in the Harpoon Review, Eunoia Review, Blue Hour Magazine, Glitterwolf Magazine and others. She holds a degree in Language and Intercultural Communication (French and Spanish) from University of South Australia. She lives and works in Singapore.

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