The Nape


Mamta (1966)

by Alolika Dutta


A man bends to kiss a woman under her nape,
Near her right shoulder, as she looks the other way.
His lips touch the flesh of her back, his nose rests
On the curve of her shoulder, and his eyes are closed.

She wears a dark blouse. Her skin is the waning moon.
Her eyelashes, the petals of a blooming rose. Her earring,
A drop of dew on a young shoot. Her hair, a spool of silk.
She is not bothered by this. She does not see herself.

His lips to her back, he does not touch another part of her.
There is no need for it. He has no such intent. This is a love
That is only love. He purses his lips, wrinkling the skin
Around the corners of his mouth, and becomes the wind.


All the truths here, in this photograph, are old truths.
Men have loved women before and women have loved
Men before, and lovers have kissed each other under
Their napes before. I, too, have been loved before.

But I have never been loved in quite this manner.
I have never looked away, distracted, and had a pair of lips
Kiss the back of my parched neck, careful not to bother me.
And now, I must go on living, acutely aware of this dearth.

About the Author

Alolika Dutta is a poet based in Bombay. Her work has appeared in The Indian QuarterlyIndian Cultural ForumThe Boston GlobeScrollThe Punch Magazine, among others, and is forthcoming in The Penguin Book of Modern Indian PoetsThe Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing, and Aainanagar, a bilingual (English and Bangla) journal.

Publication Details

Forthcoming in The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Poets (2022).


Suchitra Sen and Dharmendra in Mamta (1966). The poem is based on this still.

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