(1995, Hindi-language film, aka Rain)

by Vidhu Aggarwal

The mouth is a vent—sometimes ridiculous—

especially when the sound's turned off.

Alone in the theater, we do not protest

the malfunction. In a way,

I am pleased,

and we begin to watch the film as if for the very first time.

It is difficult to read the foreign

shapes that lips make—

even off the screen—without subtitles,

but I feel certain that we can understand:

the words are somewhere.

I'll find them for you; I'll find the body.

I become detective.

I make up facts.

Never one for subtitles by nature,

I abhor

the dubbed versions of foreign films even more: the delay unsettles

me, the utter

slowness of the mouth.

English words scribble around the lips until they speed right by, leaving the lips behind.

However, when the star on the screen begins singing,

I cannot lay my voice down fast enough

to match her ecstasy point for point.

You beg me to please slow down

but don't you know, you cannot touch me? The language is foreign,

the language is raining, and sound travels

much more slowly than light. Take, for instance, a star.

We will never hear the explosion

that indicates the birth or death of a star (snip, snip) —

though we can witness the leftover light shooting

over eons of blank space (snip, snip): sight

and sound do not correspond (snip, snip), unless

you are in the same room with me, or

technology intervenes.

Twinkle is what we say stars do.

Twinkle is the name of the lead actress, semi-famous in another country,

the country of my birth.

Twinkle seems to indicate a sound, but a delicate one—made up only of light,

now sparkly, now dim, like nostalgia or

an extremely hummable distance from an explosive power,

not in bewilderment, wild streaks around me, but in:

How I wonder what you are?

Later that evening, I cut my own hair. The blades of the scissors fill up with thick black


snip snip—galactic clumps fall to the floor, strands fall

into my skin and into my clothes

an itch all over.

The soundtrack is Singing in the Rain.

Vidhu Aggarwal has twice received an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her work appears in W.W. Norton's Contemporary Voices from the East: An Anthology of Poems, and has appeared in Limestone, Interlope, and Bint El Nas. She teaches poetics and Anglophone literature at Rollins College, and is currently editing Specs, a new journal of arts and cultural criticism.