In the absence of death, by Shannan Mann

I rained my grandfather’s ashes onto the dark lapping Yamuna,
and in a breath they filled the space between spume and wave.

A man kills a man in the absence of god. Disease kills the cells
in the absence of a knife. Time kills the body in the absence

of fever. What will kill the lifeflow of your mind mirrors in my
hands, and everything they bear. Books, gulfs, loaves, the arbor,

my parent’s Molotov, an oriole nest, maple syrup, silk thread,
burlap sacks, butter tea, turmeric, your beard. Mango wood lit

the mango wood of your firebed. In the absence of a dream,
sleep becomes death. I scattered jasmine over your air,

you gagged at the smell.


Shannan Mann is an Indian-Canadian poet. A recent winner of the Peatsmoke Summer Contest, she was also a finalist for the 2022 Rattle Poetry Prize, 2021 Frontier Award for New Poets, and has been nominated for the 2022 Forward Prize. Her play, “Milkbath” was selected as the resident production of the Toronto Paprika Theatre Festival. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, Birdcoat Quarterly, Frontier, Humber Literary Review, Oh Reader and elsewhere. You can find her at

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