Place[meant]: Pritha Bhattacharyya

Place[meant] is a recurring series that explores identity beyond the geopolitical and physical parameters that have come to define our sense of place. From a train in Queens to the cuff of a bodily spell, the poems in this series navigate place as both material terrain and residual traces of one’s memory. Place[meant] delves into how migration, diaspora, borders, technologies of power and control, biopolitics, and historical violence shape our identities, the powers of which are anything but benign.

Aubade for Arrival


First is the air, choking &
unrelenting, tinting us

Calcutta, streaking dust
against our sneakers,

lining our throats with bile,
first is the heat, bathing us

silly in sweat, sweaters &
coats strewn over hard-shell

suitcases, first are the voices
calling for us & not for us

tongues relishing sounds
known by us without ever

having spoken a word,
first is delirium, a bird’s

nest of mothers who
are not my mother, no

& the fathers, secondly,
fittingly split, first is dawn

like a drum, as we thump
along Howrah Bridge,

beating out from me
my American air,

timid & clean, first is
the waking, tossing &

turning to a stop, stares
on the street, you at

the window, on stairs,
taking us in, we who are

not quite here & there
not quite placed still.

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