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This poem is taken from PN Review 237, Volume 44 Number 1, September - October 2017.

Five Poems Sumita Chakraborty
Bear, II

A bear brings forth her young informous and unshapen.
I now wear the pelt of the conjured beast around my groin.
I think of new words for solace, one of which is knifed.
We take no form until licked into shape by the tongues of those who love us.

And death demands a labor

When it rains in Boston, from each street rises
the smell of sea. So do the faces of the dead.
For my father, I will someday write:
On this day endeth this man, who did all he could
to craft the most intricate fears, this man
whose waking dreams were of breaking the small bones
in the feet of all the world’s birds. Father.
You know the stories. You were raised on them.
To end a world, a god dances. To kill a demon,
a goddess turns into one. Almanacs of annihilation
are chronicled in cosmic time. Go on.
Batter everything of mine that you can find.
Find my roe deer with the single antler. Kill him.
Find a girl, or a woman. Display to me her remains
on some unpaved expanse, like road kill
on Kentucky highways, turning from flesh to a
fine sand made of ground bone, under a sun
whose surface reaches temperatures six times hotter
than the finest crematory. On the surface of the earth,
our remains are in unholy concert with the remains
of all who have gone before and all who will follow,
and with all who live. In this way, our ground
resembles a bone house. Search in my body
for my heart, find it doesn’t sit gently
where you learned it to be. Thieve in my armory.
Take my saws, take my torches, and drown
my phalanx of bees. Carve into me the words
of the chronicler of hell. Make your very best
catastrophe. My piano plays loud and fast
although my hands are nowhere to be found.
Father, as you well know, I am but a woman.
I believe in neither gods nor goddesses.
I have left my voice up and down the seam
of this country. I, unlike you, need no saws,
or torches. The bees you drowned will come to me
again. Each time you bear your weapons, I,
no more than a woman, grow a new limb.
Each time you use a weapon, my sinews grow
like vines that devour a maple tree.
When I cry, my face becomes the inescapable sea,
and when you drain blood from a creature,
I drink it. On this day this man died,
having always eaten the good food
amid the angry ghosts, having always made
the most overwrought hells.
On this day the moon waxes gibbous
and the moths breed in the old carpets.
On this day from a slit in the ground rises
a girl who does not live long.
On this day to me a lover turns his back
and will not meet my eye.
On this day the faces of the death-marked
are part-willow, part-lion.
On this day has died an artist of ugly tapestries,
and his wares burst into flame.
On this day endeth this man upon who
I hurl the harvest of this ghostly piano,
and on the surface of this exceptional world
the birds have all come to our thresholds,
our windows and our doors, our floorboards,
our attic crannies and underground storerooms,
wires and railroads, tarmacs, highways,
cliffs and oceans, and have all begun to laugh,
a sound like an orange and glittering fire
that originates from places unseen.


Speak to me never again about sacrifice.
Tell me no stories about things left behind.
Should you dream of telling me such a thing
Imagine immediately yourself in front of Orpheus.
Know that for the rest of my life
I do and will name everything Eurydice,
No matter what else I pretend I have named it.
I do not know what my own eyes look like
But often I imagine them like the eyes of a hound
Fresh from the track.
The track, too, is Eurydice.
Each lover. Three dogs. Rose bushes.
My mother, my sister, my home state.
An underground bees’ nest. One upright black Kawaii piano.
Here are the words you may not speak to me
Because I know them better than you could:
Toil. Sacrifice. Hound. Eurydice.


A roe deer                               shot in Slovenia
             has a single antler,                           looks
like it has just walked               out
             of a fairy                                          tale, marvels
the hunter,                               marvels
             the scientist.                                    Worlds such as this
were not thought                      possible to exist,
             marvels                                                    the astronomer.
No water can                           swell
             me or to paste                                  turn me,
soften                                     me, no flame
             singes, turns                                    to ash,
swallows                                 me, no grist
             makes of me                                    powder.
The astronomer                        is crying.
             The roe deer                                     was old,
fat                                           when the hunter
             lit his eye                                         and his rifle
upon his single horn.                 When my eye
             lights on you                                     I
forget the meaning                    of luz.
             Or, when my eye                               lights on you,
I see only                                 luz.
             These two confessions                               mean
the same thing.                         In the case
             of this very                                        untypical and interesting
buck, both                                pedicles,
             which should be                                 separated
grew up together                        in one large pedicle.
             Antlers,                                              like luz,
are made from bone.                  The mountains
              I visit                                                are made of my sister’s bones
which are much like mine,           but for one
             difference.                                          Her bone
water                                         could swell,
             her bone                                             to paste turned,
her bone truly                             singed, to ash,
             swallowed,                                          turned by grist
to the finest dust.                        When my luz
             is done for                                           it is only you
I trust                                         to see it home.
             In this marvel                                       of a world
I will wait                                    for the roe deer.
             I will touch                                           its velvet.
I will outlast                                 you.
             I will not                                               survive you.
These two confessions                          mean
             the same thing.                                                 Roe deer
cast aside                                   their antlers
             each autumn,                                         having loved them
through every other                      season.    


of Moby Dick, and for Bill

I wish to lay before you
a particular, plain statement
whose skeleton we are
briefly to exhibit
out of the trunk,
the branches grow, out of them,
the twigs
chased over the watery
moors, slaughtered
in the valleys oil, and bone
pass unscathed through the fire
and it is only
grey imperfect misty dawn
soon we shall be lost
in its unshored, harborless
immensities that serene
ocean rolled eastwards from me
a thousand leagues of blue and I only
am escaped alone to tell thee
only I am escaped to tell thee.

*These poems appeared in the following journals: ‘Bear, II’ in The Journal, ‘And death demands a labor’ in Adroit, ‘Hound’ in Witness, ‘Luz’ in Gulf Coast, and ‘Spring’ in Boston Review. ‘Bear, II’ begins with a line from Thomas Browne’s Vulgar Errors. The title of ‘And death demands a labor’ comes from Rilke’s Duino Elegies. ‘Spring’ is comprised of lines from Moby Dick.

This poem is taken from PN Review 237, Volume 44 Number 1, September - October 2017.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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