“Do not speak to the Indians,” said the British to the Africans. “They are vile and carry diseases.” Accordingly, the first Indo-Guyanese dwelled in isolated communities where they were identically indoctrinated to despise their new countrymen. “Do not speak to the Africans,” said the British to the Indians. “They are vile and carry diseases.”

–Elizabeth Jaikaran



Guyanese Bhojpuri anti-

black slur, means Aji tells you stories

about what the black men did

to Indian women…, means

you were scab labor sent

to work, means to never

be willing to acknowledge

the links of colonial divide, means

you had to learn

no people are animals, means

to unlearn to be Indian

is to be better than, means

you think the backra never beat

your ancestors in the field, never carted

across the Atlantic, means

you cannot confront your own

indenture, means Fair &

Lovely skin bleach, means

you are an immigrant

to the United States, means

you hate immigrants

you dream you have more in common

with the whites, means you vote for tr*mp,

means you would disown

your daughter if, means all lives matter,

means you think police

keep you safe, means

ICE hunts you in Ozone

Park, means you keep

your eyes closed—

Sapera, the Snake Charmer



jaminwa ke mati niche, ka sutal hai

hirde ke jardwa mein kaun uljhaal hai


My skin scales over with copper coins. To guard

against January’s ice, the ghostly shadow


wrapping of starling songs about the finger

bones of the naked park, I prick my skin with shards


of fang to beckon desiccant desire

inside. “See the cobra that eats dead meat for months,


see his poison dry.” This winter of dousing rods

he picks my nickels off one by one; tosses wishes


into a brook. The sapera rests my savage

coils in his basket. No need to knock my teeth—


my swaying bones dry inside your song as I

wind my shell unable to strike your reed or heel.





What sleeps under the earth;

what entangles itself amongst the heart’s roots?

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). In 2015 he was a winner of the AWP Intro Journals Award. His poems and translations appear or are forthcoming in Poetry, Quarterly West, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Guernica, and Asymptote. He received his MFA in Poetry and Translation from at Queens College, CUNY and his PhD in English from the University of Hawai`i. Currently he is an Assistant Professor of poetry at Auburn University. To read more about him visit www.rajivmohabir.com