Rajiv Mohabir

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Ganges River Dolphin


Herald of deluge, it side-
swims before the makara
to announce the goddess
Ganga’s descent to earth.
But some confuse its long
pointed rostrum for
the makara, her vehicle:
this misnomer a limitation
of mythic imagination. Blind,
this Platanista paints murals
with echoes—the sacred river
was once glacial ice, the ice
was once sea, was once cloud—
it swims through the Bhojpuri
belt from Kanpur through Bihar,
and understands location
with an ultrasonic ping
of clicks. With all this talk
I remember my Aji, named
Gangadai not a dolphin
but a river that wound
far from the gaumukh,
the place where she began,
a river I announce, though
my brown body’s blind
to the old ways of rice planting
and floodplains, though
here in my studio apartment—
location PaikĊ Lagoon,
O‘ahu—I know which songs,
endangered by entanglement
in fishing nets, hunting
for its aphrodisiac oil,
poisoning, and broken
prayers to sing in paddy fields,
though I sing them
with my American accent,
an echo of what was
before it melted, filled
with silt, broken clay pots,
dead bodies, runoff,
and raced
to the delta and sea

and then to cloud.


Rajiv Mohabir is the author of The Cowherd’s Son (Tupelo Press 2017, winner of the 2015 Kundiman Prize) and The Taxidermist’s Cut (Four Way Books 2016, winner of the Four Way Books Intro to Poetry Prize). He received his MFA in Poetry and Translation from at Queens College, CUNY and his PhD in English from the University of Hawai`i. In Fall of 2017 he will join the creative writing and English faculty at Auburn University as an Assistant Professor of poetry. Read more about him at www.rajivmohabir.comwww.rajivmohabir.com.