How now to rig the petrified words to reveal
The infinite in a new permutation of language.
How to green again the fallow bandwidth
Of talk when fire is funeral & river means hearse.
When a syndrome grows precise in the panic-blue air
Where weaving death’s black wing
A muted swarm descends. An empty swing.
Uproot the new park benches to reveal
Cindered bones, the phantom smell of burnt hair
Watering the mouths of the wretched. Gauge
His strength as the naked king pulls the black hearse
Of myth through jaundice streets bragging its width.
In the shallow arms of the prison cell, a width
Of man’s breath can keep his body warm. A flap of wing
Means sky, to be executed without a hood. As the hearse-
Pulled fare of the nation’s dead reveal
Froth drying in the mouth of his language,
The king’s men upholster the king’s velvet chair.
Pitched to the injured choir,
His rabid hosts feed the bandwidth
Of fear that plugs the old faultline, prunes language
To the dull blade of history’s axe swing.
What the news stifles, the river unveils:
The shallow graves of sand, the watery hearse.
On the shore, the stray dogs of my nation rehearse
A new hunger. Heat drags in the air
What a flanked disturbance of crows’ flight reveals:
A bloated corpse, twice its living width,
Strangled in a bush. A ballooned arm like a black wing
Fastened to what has no face in language.
The dogs were feeding off this language,
This purple delirium washed up in a hearse.
Then the keening vultures begin to descend, their wings
Unpetalling like something extracted them mid-air.
I had to remember this, wake & find the width
Of my body bound to this boat for the tidal reveal
At high noon when the width of each shadow’s wing
Dwarfs. I did not rehearse this, I had no guide to veil
The language for what was killing us out of thin air.
Copyright © 2022 by Rohan Chhetri. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 5, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.