with the anemone zero.

Drink 12 oz. of coffee in Longmont.

Are you parched?

Is your name Pinky?

What color is the skin of your inner arm, creamy?

Valentine City rebate: a box of chocolates from Safeway.

Yours, yours, yours.

In its entirety.

Don't collude with your inability to give or receive love.

Collude, instead, with the lining of the universe.

Descent, rotation, silk water, brief periods of intense sunlight
striated with rose pink glitter.

The glitter can only get us.

So far.

Here we are at the part with the asphalt, airstream Tupperware,
veins, some nice light stretching.

Call me.

This is a poem for a beloved.

Who never arrived.

More by Bhanu Kapil

What are the consequences of silence?

53.

Red Canna, I see you. Edge of. What I saw: a flower blossoming, in slow motion. 
Not specific enough. Okay. No. Cannot. Red Canna, I veer into you. I am not in 
one straight line. Red Canna, I see you. 1904. The University of Arizona Museum 
of Art. Opening in slow motion: are you okay? Are you okay? Can you hear me? 
(I can't)

That's how it begins: impenetrable.

The book of two words I happen to see, out of the corner of my eye, on a wall. Such 
slowness.

These words took years to arrive.

Humanimal [Feral children are fatty]

4. Feral children are fatty, complex and rigid. When you captured the two children, you had to brush the knots out of their hair then scrape the comb free of hard butter. Descent and serration. No. I don't want to ask primal questions.

5. Kamala slips over the garden wall with her sister and runs, on all fours, towards the complex horizon between Midnapure and its surrounding belt of sal. The humanimal mode is one of pure anxiety attached to the presence of the body. Two panicked children strain against the gelatin envelope of the township, producing, through distension, a frightening shape. The animals see an opaque, milky membrane bulging with life and retreat, as you would, to the inner world. I am speaking for you in January. It is raining. Amniotic, compelled to emerge, the girls are nevertheless re-absorbed. I imagine them back in their cots illuminated by kerosene lanterns. I illuminate them in the colony—the cluster of residences, including the Home—around St. John's. No. Though I've been there, it’s impossible for me to visualize retrieval. Chronologies only record the bad days, the attempted escapes.

d. I was almost to the gate. I was almost to the gate when a hand reached out and pulled me backwards by my hair, opening my mouth to an O. The next day, I woke up with a raw throat. The cook gave me salt in warm water. I waited until she was gone and then I bit it. I bit my own arm and ate it. Here is my belly, frosted with meat. Here are my eyes, bobbling in a tin.

6. It's Palm Sunday and Kamala, with the other orphans in a dark, glittery crocodile, walks from Home to church. Her two arms extend stiffly from her body to train them, to extend. Unbound, her elbows and wrists would flex then supinate like two peeled claws. Wrapped, she is a swerve, a crooked yet regulated mark. This is corrective therapy; the fascia hardening over a lifetime then split in order to re-set it, educate the nerves.

e. The cook fed us meats of many kinds. I joined my belly to the belly of the next girl. It was pink and we opened our beaks for meat. It was wet and we licked the dictionary off each other's faces.

7. Is this the humanimal question? No, it’s a disc, transferring light from corner to corner of the girl's eye. Like an animal tapetum. The way at night an animal. Animal eyes, glinting, in the room where he kept her, his girl, deep in the Home.

Humanimal [I want to make a dark mirror out of writing]

47. I want to make a dark mirror out of writing: one child facing the other, like Dora and little Hans. I want to write, for example, about the violence done to my father's body as a child. In this re-telling, India is blue, green, black and yellow like the actual, reflective surface of a mercury globe. I pour the mercury into a shallow box to see it: my father's right leg, linear and hard as the bone it contains, and silver. There are scooped out places where the flesh is missing, shiny, as they would be regardless of race. A scar is memory. Memory is wrong. The wrong face appears in the wrong memory. A face, for example, condenses on the surface of the mirror in the bathroom when I stop writing to wash my face. Hands on the basin, I look up, and see it: the distinct image of an owlgirl. Her eyes protrude, her tongue is sticking out, and she has horns, wings and feet. Talons. I look into her eyes and see his. Writing makes a mirror between the two children who perceive each other. In a physical world, the mirror is a slice of dark space. How do you break a space? No. Tell me a story set in a different time, in a different place. Because I'm scared. I'm scared of the child I'm making.

48. They dragged her from a dark room and put her in a sheet. They broke her legs then re-set them. Both children, the wolfgirls, were given a fine yellow powder to clean their kidneys but their bodies, having adapted to animal ways of excreting meat, could not cope with this technology. Red worms came out of their bodies and the younger girl died. Kamala mourned the death of her sister with, as Joseph wrote, "an affection." There, in a dark room deep in the Home. Many rooms are dark in India to kill the sun. In Midnapure, I stood in that room, and blinked. When my vision adjusted, I saw a picture of Jesus above a bed, positioned yet dusty on a faded turquoise wall. Many walls in India are turquoise, which is a color the human soul soaks up in an architecture not even knowing it was thirsty. I was thirsty and a girl of about eight, Joseph's great-granddaughter, brought me tea. I sat on the edge of the bed and tried to focus upon the memory available to me in the room, but there was no experience. When I opened my eyes, I observed Jesus once again, the blood pouring from his open chest, the heart, and onto, it seemed, the floor, in drips.

Related Poems

Step Two: Higher Power

For a while it was easy as inventing an oak tree:
start from the top and worry your way down the trunk.
Or a new continent, emerging green and deserted after
years on water, the simple rapture of the higheway going coast
to coast with more America than any of us ever wanted.
I guess you could say I love this city like I love prickly pears,
which is to say, not very much, or only when I'm starving.
My friend sends me photographs of the plane crash
in Curaçao and says they're opening a restaurant there,
people eating among the dead, which I find gruesome,
but she says isn't Manhattan built on a slave cemetary,
and every time I'm in an airport I see all the unmade beds,
the houseplants too shriveled to save. I'm afraid of sleep this week.
Next week it'll be something else: mosquitoes, black holes,
the snap of fireworks from one rooftop to another.
It's like how I liked about getting sober: it was hard.
I'd pretend it was a road trip, that I'd be drinking again
on Saturday, and the Mondays and Wednesdays would tick by
until it was Saturday, and I'd lie to myself again,
it's too humid to drink today, I'll drink tomorrow,
and tomorrow would be my mother's birthday, then
Monday would arrive like an artless, triling wife.
This is how a year passed, with hundreds of lies,
like that midnight walk in the French countryside dark,
my sister giggling nervously, no streetlamp for miles,
one footstep after the other, and the only way out ahead.

Drone

Do strangers make you human

Science fiction visiting bodies as cold fact

What unknown numbers govern our genes or phones

A constant thrum from outer space

Snow makes a sound in sand

You are seen from far far above

Unheard and vanished

bodies dismember to dirt

Hardly alive, hardly a person anymore

Who will I be next and in that life will you know me
 

from "Surge"

A long night I spent
thinking that reality was the story
of the human species



the vanquished search for the vanquished



Sounds come by, ruffling my soul
 

I sense space’s elasticity, 
go on reading the books she wrote on the
wars she’s seen



Why do seasons who regularly follow
their appointed time, deny their kind of energy
to us?



why is winter followed by a few
more days of winter? 



We came to transmit the shimmering
from which we came; to name it


 
we deal with a permanent voyage,
the becoming of that which itself had
become