Wednesday Nov 21

ChakrabortySumita Sumita Chakraborty is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, as well as a lecturer in English and Creative Writing, at Emory University. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRYAmerican Poetry Review, Los Angeles Review of BooksCultural Critique, and elsewhere; she is poetry editor of AGNI and art editor of At Length. In 2017, she received a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and in 2018, she was shortlisted for a Forward Prize. Her first book of poems, Arrow, is forthcoming in September 2020 from Alice James Books in the U.S. and Carcanet Press in the U.K. Find her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/chakrabsumita or see her website here.
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Arrow

No one likes an essay that begins with a remark about the birth of Earth.
Still, indulge me. I know that the impulse to imagine a universal shift
is ungraceful, and the imagined universes born of that impulse are false ones, those in
which the imaginer alone lives. Still, I wonder about those classified as diurnal,
a category into which I reluctantly fit. I wonder if the vagaries of weather
hurt them more, whether they can feel each planetary movement, pulsing and round.

       .

Picture, for a moment, ire. Imagine everyone you know wishes you dead.
Imagine their wishes as a planet. Worlds such as this have terrible gravity:
fit to lasso moons, to make them crash to the ground in a blur.
Imagine your body composed of the dust they left behind. Every planet roils
with the gravity made by some ordinary evil. On worlds such as this, eclipses
don’t come from the atmosphere. They are born of a curse.

       . .

Time, though I will hate you for it: stay slow.
Whet, on our imaginations, your tooth.
Raise from their infant forms your shadows.
Heed, and make sure they keep, their breath.
Time, if you must picture me, imagine me not too alone.
Time, if you must attend to me, please, wait.

        .

This line marks a place from which Earth looks dead.
This line marks a place in which no memory ever blurs.
This line marks my childhood vision of incapacitation via eclipse.

        .

Unlike many others, Archilochus wasn’t afraid of the eclipse.
Or rather: for him, the dread fear the eclipse inspired always blurred
with amazement, and so he what he actually feared was the death of fear, the gravity
of the consequences of its absence. What if nothing amazes now. What if the courses
of the stars might render everything ordinary, since now light has been pronounced dead
even as sun was shining. What if wonder, drained of blood, away from us could roll.

        . .

By now you must be long in tooth,
skeletal and lacking in breath.
What fantasy of denouement makes you so willing to wait
for this story’s end? Do you imagine you will find my fears defeated, me no longer alone
and abruptly willing to embrace both myself and my shadow,
no longer forcing you to think of degradation and loss, and of time as slow?

       .

If it is the last thing I do, I’ll command you to be amazed. Seas rolling
onto the shore, dried to salt. The dust of growing gorges. The eclipse.
Fields of pines—no, full coasts—caught flame. Nebulae, dead,
their starred knots unknotted, dispersed and flayed into the dark. Blurs
of mackerel skies, horse-shaped clouds. The courses
set into motion by each loss of life. The persistence of gravity.

       .

As a child of Icarus, I’ve a desire to chase the sun. And so lunar eclipses
have fallen from this accounting, which is in part a corrective, as the moon’s blurred
light has long been more interesting to me than the sun’s, living or dead.

. . .

All diurnal animals are the children of Icarus, even during nocturnes. In
this we are unlucky, because the light we structure our lives around
lacks consolation. Baudelaire hated night because of the stars: why torment diurnal
things, who already lack respite from the glints of the earth.
The light already governs us even by its small changes, which cause space to shift.
None of this should be understood to mean that the night brings no cruel weather.

        .

I imagine there is an open secret among astronomers: charting a course
through either space or time will be impossible until either concept has long been dead.
Sometimes, I imagine astronomers are also keeping secret the true cause of the solar eclipse.
Perhaps it comes when a critical mass of people at once try to imagine alternatives to gravity.
The eclipse, therefore, is a rebuttal. I can steal your wonder. The orbits will never cease to roll.
I can make you gather and stare as, perhaps once or twice in your small lives, night and day blur.

       .

Beyond the honeyed moon, the Earth is a blur.
From this spot, my vision resembles what hounds see while coursing.
In today’s main visio, this world looks like the tumbleweed’s roll.
I know nothing about tumbleweed, except that they belong to the species Kali, the dead’s
heroine and shepherd. A woman like that, she teaches you things about gravity.
A woman like that, to certain kinds of beloveds, is an eclipse.

. .

       Arrow, though I believe you to be a tool of devotion, I am drawn most to the shadow
       your figure impresses on my brutalities, like how the word for your home describes me when I wait,
       discomfited, unable to sit still, secretly running my tongue along my sharp and crooked tooth.

. .

Arrow, though this usage of you has fallen from favor, you are also a verb, as is tooth.
Neither verb has a reputation for patience, which is why I must wait,
likely for a long time, for them to come back into prominence within my shadows.

. . .

Truth be told, I have never lacked for amazement, around
which I build even my pettiest visions, as reliably as the life of the Earth
is built around both the sun and the moon, which dictate its weathers.
This also means I have also always held an affinity for fear, for shifting
uneasily toward the next dazzling thing. For the categories of nocturnal and diurnal
alike, not to mention crepuscular and cathemeral, uncanny is the house best lived in.
 
.

You need to know that the moment I say something’s persistent, as I have here with gravity,
I immediately imagine it vanished. I’m not so selfish to believe my imagination, roil
as it may within me, is by any means an accurate depiction of planetary courses.
Barthes called “I” the pronoun of the imaginary: what is an “I” to an eclipse?
Still, I do imagine, and wantonly, uninterested in fidelity, even at its most blurred.
Hear me: faith is no way to learn that you are not dead.

. .

What am I to the aftereffects of murder, to the robbed breath.
What am I to the blind faith in an interlocutor sustained by each person alone.
What am I to eons of time, water over and over, to the mountains built slowly,
to the colors in which my dead appear to me, like shadow
blue, to the visios that grow with each flinch of the mind, lying in wait
for their moment, to the birds, those children of Icarus, who need neither devotion nor teeth.

. . .

Because nothing but looking seems like life to me, I am often overcome by the weather,
prone to singing praises and dirges and prone to allegories of paradise and of hell. In
this I believe you and I are the same. Let us hold each other to this apocalyptic earth.

. .

It’s not kind of me to say, but I don’t always love you, sitting there waiting
for me to finish, humming along with a throaty voice that moves slow
and low. Or maybe you’re moving these pages frenetically in the dark, fast and alone,
like you do with porn, your phone’s glint reflected in your teeth,
which are bared because you are taking pains to ensure that your increasingly heavy breath
alerts no one to even the hint of a libido you might have, stirs not a single shadow.

. . .

Some of my favorite words mean wildly contrary things. Such is true of shift,
which means, among other things, beginning and last resort. Or marigolds—more diurnal
children—which means both worries and those round-
eyed red-golden flowers. O, my spirit, stay with me through this weather.
It is true that you are dear to me and true also that my love has changed you, and yours, in
me, has grown roots, which fasten me to this violently bucking earth.

. .

It’s no kinder of me to say how much I do love you, how I won’t move an inch until your shadow,
in its entirety, has disappeared beyond the moons of Saturn, how, each time it has, I wait
with my own increasingly heavy breath
for your return, which is always slower
than I want it to be, how sometimes my visio in your absence is of my own teeth
lit on fire by the oxygen gasped out of me, how, without you, I am, comprehensively, alone.

. . .

Stasis is as uninteresting as progress, much like the question of whether
to be optimistic or pessimistic, especially as we arrow from times of grief into—
well, into more such times. A secret: although I have yearned, sometimes acutely, to shift
my spirit into harder-toothed customs, even when bereft it’s none other than love around
which all of my thoughts cluster like prehistoric moths learning the glints of the Earth
in an ancient epoch as unkind as this one, in which the rhythm of pain too was diurnal.

. . .

How then are we expected to bear our weight. We who are diurnal.
We, the subjects of—and, often, the causes of—the vagaries of the weather.
We subjects. I understand why you might assume I believe in a divine; no earthly
or heavenly house is unchanged by my imagination, and my mouth is always frozen in
an O, which means both lack and plenty, which is astonishment made round
as pair of lips from which a tongue is missing. My love is my utter, final shift.

. .

You, O spirit, are my one organ alone.
You are searching for ways to acquiesce to your shadow.
You are priming yourself to be capable of using your sharpest tooth.
You tell yourself, as I do, to learn how to wait.
And, conversely, how to stop waiting, when to do so would be detrimentally slow.
You must learn how to stop counting your breaths.

. . .

O, world, you have me, and I do love you, and I do feel devotion toward you, Earth,
all the light-bearing spheres,rhymes, constellations, flowers, the dead, all that dwell inside
this terrifying home of a word, this word that quickens the blood, weathered.