Two Poems

Anuska Dhar

An Atheist’s Memory

a response to: pensiveness, thunderstorms, and the pace of my life.

— RW

The window is a good place to rest—
incense burning, not just for the holiday
but for the daily washing of my face,
the daily pouring on the pane.

I used to pray to an altar
in a small hallway closet,
the deities arranged in neat order
like dolls waiting to be dressed

my evening appointment
small palms together, ready to inquire.

I’d start with the inner circle—
1. Ma, Baba, my family elsewhere,
2. friends and worn bear to take the spot of siblings,
3. continue on, to how and why

weary my ritual became,
adding a new line each day.

The outermost ring—
9. World Peace,

like the good girl that I was
imagining the universe between us

wide and dark. I’d point my chin up
some days, to a body sitting cross legged on a cloud

other days, to a spherical orb
similar in size to earth
faceless, floating gently, ready to enfold me
to make my soul one with those of the afterlife.

To end, dip my fingers three times—
forehead to chest
forehead to chest
forehead to chest

and on bad days, I’d repeat it nine times
three for three, a comfort in addition

like when we’d circle the planets clockwise
at temple, walking around their stone counterparts.

I took after my mother, watching her
at the closet door, tugging her sleeve
one night to join. I took after my father,
hearing him recite poetry in sanskrit
from a rowboat, a picture taken years
before I was born.

My parents never forced me to pray,
but it seemed to me to make sense, just

like when I voted in a classroom election
every chubby arm in the air for Bush except mine
no first grade agenda, no party politics
just the thought, why not give someone new a chance?

I took after my father, years later,
a cynic of the institution.

I took after my mother, still waking early
to cut the fruit, to sit in silence.

I return to the flicking of water by the priest
falling always on the parting of my head
finding the skin on which to land

and when I wake, my neck will hurt
as if I’d fallen asleep in the car, a book
face down on my lap, the sky in storm

the window, a good place to rest.

Spring is for Everyone

a response to: How to find joy + connection with others in this isolation time?

— AZ

when i type “spring poem”
mary oliver pops up, like a ghost
from my previous conversation

Do you read Mary Oliver? My friend
said she’s like a gateway poet.

to be honest i had not read a single word
maybe once in a forgotten classroom

It is okay to know only / One song
if it is this one.

she speaks through the screen
as though she knows i’m not listening
as i whisper to myself

white woman
White woman
White Woman

yet one ear remains open —
the poem is titled “Spring”

aptly named ms. oliver, tell me more
about the bird who cannot fly


I like contemporary poetry, i say
but spring this year feels lackluster

Well, who doesn’t want the sun
after the long winter?

same title (she’s done it yet again, folks!)
this one about a snake climbing out
of his cave

how many times do i need to write
Spring, for it to mean rebirth

Spring: we will get through this winter
Spring: we are all in this together


i have no space for empty placards,
but i do have these moments

looking at a screen, forgetting
she’s a white woman, he

Arrives, year after year, humble and
obedient / And gorgeous.

we share these moments, you and i
cute was earned twice in that text —

patterned turtleneck, long red jacket
picking out clothes for a walk

you will take one day, his schedule
cleared and your grasp a hand away

There is no way to be / Sufficiently
grateful for the gifts we are / Given.

i wish i could write about a flower
so that when you read its name

you’d know i copied the way you
abbreviate the names of your lovers

patiently they sit, waiting for the door
to open, the grass to grow


You listen and you know
You could live a better life than you do,

because when our heart aches, it reminds us
we have something to yearn for
you have these moments

a detailed description: how to make asparagus soup
show and tell: golden curry in the cupboard

your running shoes waiting at the door, be
Softer, kinder.
everyone needs an escape

reciting a story aloud to a friend over the phone
hearing your own words said back to you

And maybe this year you will
Be able to do it.

you will find her (by which i mean to say
you will find yourself) dancing alone

in her apartment, sun simple on her face
calling mary oliver her friend

Anuska is a writer currently based in Omaha, Nebraska. After graduating in 2019 from Vanderbilt University, she went on to work for the Netflix original series, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, and currently works for Soledad O’Brien Productions. She has freelanced as a writer for NOISE, a North Omaha community news organization, and as a digital producer for Self-Medicated, a comedy podcast on addiction and recovery. She often returns to the written word as a way to translate and transform her experiences as a queer, Bengali-American woman. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring thrift stores, curating Spotify playlists, or unabashedly reading her horoscope in broad daylight.