Hello I am Your Miscarriage

Hello I am Your Miscarriage

And it is here that I’d like to say that I was given a choice.
I don’t know about anybody else but I was given a choice
and I chose NO and I don’t know if anybody else chooses NO but I did.

My existence was in all full doubt.
I was not even a ball of cells.

At the edge of being something I knew what it might mean to be that something until it disappeared again to the state I was then.
I was not yet something.

To know is a lovely thing,
to know.

To know that if this second rolled to the next that I would experience immense joy that would evaporate only to leave desire,
insurmountable pain that would eat away at me,
and most of all I would experience a loneliness rivaled only by the loneliness of nonexistence.

But I chose NO. I think you might’ve too.

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Untitled

This is a poem my mom wrote a long time ago that I translated from Bengali to English for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary a couple years ago.

 

Untitled

For him I stand on bended knee.

Having noticed the beauty of a shoulder,

Having been an alveoli beside his lung,

Having been the skin stretched across

His soul, I have been so close,

Because I love him.

 

And if he does not bind me

I incarcerate myself in

My quiet penitentiary.

And if he never fulfills me

Then I exist, forever exhausted

In this dense obscurity.

 

But give me a little love

Some small piece of familiarity—

The vagabond scent of windblown hair.

And give me something more

If anything more remains.

No. 119

This is a poem my dad wrote a long time ago that I translated from Bengali to English for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary a couple years ago.

 

No. 119

On destitute Kolkata’s
three cornered grassland tiara
Keep three and a half feet of land for my second me.
Flanked by centers of coursing civilization
stands No. 119 in the middle.
Tripping over calciated stairs
climbing up to that three cornered room
where I felt my second death.
From the old kitchen wafts smells of
reminiscent foods.
Tick tick answers, not the clock
But the old house’s childhood friend
tiktiki.
Spring shattered sofa, Pandora’s closet
and in the triangular middle
of the gold dust covered table
“Jagate Ananda Jogye Aamar Nimantran”
The volume of my triangular heart is rising.

 

pena

pena

 

surfactant fluorine in long tubes

pale yellow opaque lights

fluorescent halogen rarest star

flowing salts teflon teeth

gaseous yellow green topaz

transparent gel atmosphere

bright yellow liquid cubes

violently shattering neon oxygen

repulsion and attraction, reaction to

a weakened peroxide blonde

easily cleaved significantly larger

powdered steel, floral glass

fragments  of burning water

wolves of cosmology

red giant lisping crust

florid blue silicates

geothermal springs flux

soft glass super heavy

killing or blinding dry

platinum liberated presence

copper head hex nickel

breathable rainwear wire

steel limes cracking rods

invisibility research on

exchange membrane lips

thin coating plasma etching

propellant toxic corrosive

lust repellant integrated

a viscous meniscus into

shimmering hibiscus.

El Ratoncito

El Ratoncito

I look at lonely people and
hide my head under a pillow.
Everyone wants to be a salve.
A balmy morning spent looking
through a violet window
saying it’s ok, I am there with you,
just a soft husk breathing.

Two galaxies slowly crash
into each other, blinded whales.
The qualities of empathy are
cloudy, like a cataract thundering
over the edge of a bowl.
My body knows a lot
of things that I deny.

I’m eating these diamonds
thoughtfully with a spoon,
washing them down with
gold flecked vodka.
If I collect within me enough
hard stones, I will become
a deadly weapon silo.

I look at lonely people and
press down until a rainbow
emerges, concentric rings
like dipping a finger into
a solution looking for a
problem. I press harder
until the screen cracks.

Currently I’m working on
several whirring add-ons
that’ll purr, look helpless,
de-melanize, saturate, seek
eye contact, be unequivocal,
flatten display, high resolution.
Patent pending.

Phil Collins: Greatest Hits

Yesterday I woke up with Phil Collins’ Groovy Kind of Love stuck in my head. I haven’t heard that song in years, maybe a decade. So Ian and I collaborated on a poetry e-book called Phil Collins: Greatest Hits. Here’s a sample poem:

Two Worlds

Which of Phaeton? What you must believe that two worlds line. Family just Jaheim them, if they do say to guide these lives, EBC.

Got it, Donathon.

Touch my man, women, this hotblast with love. Symbion is alive in peas. Salt Lake Chad does blow your feet, now to world line family. Just jihad that they Teesside to Gindy’s’s recede. Beneath the shelter, around the cheese.

Only a lot Candenta here. Soon borrow alive in peas, crazy ahead.

Live tithe the food, take strength from those in need, to build high villa walls. Built strong, moonbeams.
Visit wading a dangerousness changes.

He and—

No, I just gone my mother. SDA know what it is, Ganhill. Up broken.

Hi, Jamie has gone. But where there’s hope.

Somewhere something is scarring. Fall you to a world salon family, just Jaheim that they decide. To guide these lives we see.

Today’s Nonsense

The Times of India put out a new broadsheet called Ei Samay (This Time) and asked me to write a piece about HJBRL, the book I translated a while ago. This article is the first piece of writing I’ve done that’s been translated. You can read the Bengali version here.

Today’s Nonsense

There’s a big white building with stately columns about 10 minutes from my house in San Francisco. It used to be a church, except instead of statues of Jesus it now houses server stacks. This building belongs to the Internet Archive, a digital library that’s on a mission to scan and catalog every word that has ever been printed or typed. It’s common knowledge that the best way to bring down a civilization is to burn its books. But burning isn’t the only way to kill a book. Neglecting and allowing it to molder untouched except by pulp-loving insects is a slower and more painful death.

Apparently the members of my generation are subjecting the classics of Bengali literature to this cruel fate. Or at least, that’s what people keep telling me. Not having lived in Kolkata for a very long time, I have no first-hand knowledge of the matter. I’m a firm believer that no one has a duty to prop up artifacts of a dying culture if they are no longer of use. However, I have a hard time believing that this could be the fate of Sukumar Ray’s Ha Ja Ba Ra La.

The turgid and old-fashioned language of most classics bore me, and there are just too many books in the world to waste time reading ones I don’t enjoy. But I have always loved the odd interplay of cultural specificity and universality of Ray’s stories. I translated Ha Ja Ba Ra La into English when I was fifteen in order to share it with my friends. The language is so casual that it could have been written two days ago. Ray’s words are sweet and chewy like sandesh. Even when the jokes are based in Bengali wordplay, they remain culturally fluid—I can’t think of a language where a father-in-law named Cookie isn’t funny.

Another great thing about Ray is that he didn’t deal with morals. I never really appreciated the subtle beauty of Rabindranath Tagore’s Dakghor or any such stories that I suspected were trying to teach me a lesson by tugging at my heartstrings. Tagore’s Amol didn’t talk like I did. He was too sincere and limpid. I liked books with disruptive characters. I saw myself in Sunil Ganguly’s Kakababu stories and Soviet propaganda books about roving gangs of feral children. As a kid, I related to the genderless protagonist in Ha Ja Ba Ra La who questioned every absurd explanation she was fed. I must admit that I now relate more to the overly academic goat who gives lectures on the edibility of various furnishings.

As I get older, new things catch my attention. A couple nights ago my roommates and I were winding down after a night of drinking and talking about immortality. One of them mentioned a jellyfish that ages up to a certain point and then begins to get younger and younger, eventually becoming a polyp, and then aging upward again. This process can go on indefinitely. I squealed and jumped out of bed to scribble this piece of information down. Surely I don’t need to point out the parallels between this biologically immortal jellyfish and Ray’s age-flipping old man who cycles between age ten and forty? Did he know about this jellyfish, or is the natural world absurd enough to de-absurdify even the most nonsensical literature? Isn’t the mystery of Gechodada’s current location simply an example of Zeno’s paradox? The tape measure that measures everything as 26 inches an illustration of Maslow’s Hammer?

Martin Gardner once wrote that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a deeply upsetting children’s book because it deals with philosophical concepts that unsettle even adults. Ha Ja Ba Ra La is similar in many respects. It contains a dream architecture that muddles the boundaries between signifier and signified. But children seem to be less disturbed by this instability if only because they haven’t lived in the world of symbols for very long. During childhood, events simply seem to unfold without rhyme or reason. Like the confused young protagonist, I quickly came to understand that I cannot control anything and must be content with observing and reacting. I think the process of aging erodes this understanding of reality to our own detriment.

Cultures can’t be preserved like airtight jars of pickles, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. I’m dropping off my dusty collection of classic Bengali literature to the Internet Archive because I simply don’t have the time or desire to sift through the pastoral dramas of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay or the measured meters of Tagore’s love poems from an unrecognizable era. But Ha Ja Ba Ra La doesn’t need this kind of archiving yet. It’s a living, breathing text. Its language and satire remain as piercing as ever. There’s no need to look backward or make temporal concessions in order to find every joke and every grinning, snuffling character alive for our age.