Ellen Kombiyil

Landscape with Girl and Ibises

Each day
endless ladies clawed

up moss-covered rocks
to hightail it to

blacktop through miles of
empty forest. It was

always summer, daddy
like a waterfall

crashed into
pools of ladies

in bikinis.
It was the time

of year when hatchlings
fell from

nests—did she
mean to

escape? plunging
from the top

or just vault
into the flume?

Mama watched me watch
a medic stretcher

her off not bloody
but broken, her glass

eyes open
like dolly

who never
sleeps but all night

stares at the curtains—
like that, I

eyeballed the rocks. Forget it,
mama said, it’s

too dangerous, so we’d
swim and

swim in mist
piped in among trills

of mechanical
ibises. Onlookers tossed

pennies heavy
and cold that I

dove for, my fingers
gouging blue

paint chipped from the pool
floor. I wedged pennies

into toe gaps stuffed
the lining of my

bikini top till
it burst and they jabbed

at my breasts I crammed
them into my mouth

I would’ve guzzled more
if I could. Help, I meant

to shout to the girl,
mute, wading

near the pool’s
edge, her wishes

moneyless. I
shoved her

my dripping
fistfuls—I have

to put this.



No Money for Boots

Mama requested birthday lilies
so you stomped through snow
to the florist’s beige counter, tiled floor.
Tiger lilies. No dull

white for her, no pink tongue center
plucked fresh from a mountain path.
It was six years since daddy yanked
the spark plugs and left,

no groceries in the fridge, Friday night
paycheck already spent on next month’s rent.
You nearly crushed them getting back,
bare legs bright red

like knuckles, simultaneously
snow-wet and bled. And stars in snowdrifts
glittered. Not stars but tiny crystals
moved when you moved down the block, a wave of stars

followed you home
and the stems
gone bent
and you not broken.


Ellen Kombiyil is the author of the full-length poetry collection Histories of the Future Perfect (2015), and a micro chapbook Avalanche Tunnel (Ryga, 2016), and has new work in The Fiddlehead, Pleiades, Prelude, and Tinderbox. She has read, performed or taught workshops at Split This Rock, the Prakriti Poetry Festival in Chennai, the Raedleaf Poetry Awards in Hyderabad, and Lekhana in Bangalore, India. She is a co-Founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a mentorship-model press publishing emerging poets from India and the diaspora.