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Art: photography from “Swan Song of the Badlas”

Art: photography from “Swan Song of the Badlas”

This series, “Swan Song of the Badlas,” follows the last remaining artisans of traditional mukaish badla embroidery, which flourished in the 18th century. There were once 3,000 mukaish badla artisans in Lucknow, the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh; that number is now closer to 25, all of them over the age of 65.

What I like about you 1

You’ve got good ideas, like swinging our hips right

and then left. You take leadership, appreciate that.

I chase you with blue paint and you spring away.


I write, a way of saying: “look what I can do

with language.” I am trying to tell you: “I miss wonder.” I wonder
if nostalgia is what we invented to name ourselves species

and mean: we once stood on the same shore.

A meeting of discontinuous selves

…but there is no taxonomy for the widening sprawl of my life. The roots cannot always be traced. I have become familiar with many languages. And others that once comprised the fabric of my thoughts have grown unfamiliar. Family have become strangers then become family again; and strangers have become family and become strangers again. Cadences and cultures that were once at the center are now othered.


There’s the made-for-TV scene
when the cancer patient shaves her head
instead of waiting for chemotherapy
to suck the fallout in its mouth.

This is not a coming to terms.