Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods by Tishani Doshi is a journey from sublunary everyday happenings to death, from Ode to Patrick Swayze to Summer in Madras, to other unflinching, haunting poems. Tishani Doshi works her magic again in this poetry collection with striking imagery, simultaneously sensual, humourous and tender, making an indelible mark on the reader.
Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods
Girls are coming out of the woods,
wrapped in cloaks and hoods,
carrying iron bars and candles
and a multitude of scars, collected
on 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
off their ribs, and decorated
their coffins with brier. Girls are coming
out 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
of childhood, the silver-pink weight
of their bodies pushing against water,
against the sad, feathered tarnish
of remembrance. Girls are coming out
of 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
of sound – bashing, disappearing.
Girls are coming out of the woods.
They’re coming. They’re coming.
Doshi’s perception of the ‘Woods‘, in her own words is “The woods for me are really a version of Dante’s ‘selva oscura’. I think of writing as standing in a dark forest, very much primordial, very much sacred. Almost in the way I spoke of childhood as a place of terror and beauty. So there is disorientation in the woods – wandering, imagination, intuition, danger, finding and losing one’s way. Writing the poem is a way of traversing those woods.” Every poem has a grounded sense of place, her affinity for sound is also quite discernable.
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,
offering 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.
Only her soulful dance, choreographed by her for the book launch, might be captivating enough to transcend her exquisite imagery. I would recommend this book to adventurers, lovers, to people searching for the intricacies in this seemingly mundane world of life and death.
You can buy her book here.