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Tag: @notsumatra


Worlds such as this were not thought possible to exist.

—NASA, June 2, 2014


Was it I who invaded the day, or the day who invaded me?

I do, I undo, I redo.

I enlarged the figure till it was a mountain—I don’t fear the sublime—

and I cut off its head,

having already cut out its tongue. I have three siblings and flocks of children,

and though we’re oft confused,

you must know that I differ from all: I am not my brother Darkness,

nor my sister Dirt, nor my brother Torment.

I am a time and I am an astronomy, a geometry I invented myself, an architecture,

a divine, and like any divine,

yes, I have made kin from unions with my kin. Out of a union with my brother

I made the nymphs,

the river and the boatsman, lullabies. If X is an obstruction,

and if the poetry of X was music,

then this poem is a musical obstruction, and if this poem is a musical obstruction,

then this poem is a lullaby,

my kin born of my kin. I am a space as much as I am a voice. Did you truly hail me

for a dim-witted conversation about love?

Me? There is nothing like me. I am no more like my siblings or my parents

than I am like a placid lake,

or the Gaping from which I was born. I am a charioteer, a bird.

Would you believe me if I said I also made

the Ether and the Day? Whether or not your faith is stored in my ear,

I am sure in what I have made.

How could I be both gentle enough and dangerous enough for your thoughts?

Doyou have thoughts? I asked about moon,

dark, pain; you only gave me yourself. And as to my other question: it was me.

I invaded the day. It didn’t stand a chance.

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.


After Rilke’s “Les Fenêtres”


how much loss

gains suddenly in emphasis

and brilliant sadness


far from that which lives and turns



of our vain comings and goings wilt and gnaw


beat them, punish

them for having said and always said


tear out, finally, our spells


one life pours and grows impatient

for another life


and the lovers, look on them there,

immobile and frail

pinned like the butterflies

for the beauty of their wings


too great in the outdoors


like the lyre, you should be

rendered a constellation


like the scales or the lyre

an almost-name of the ages’ absences


should I defend myself

am I not intact


one who loves is never beautiful


tender – strained


all hazards are abolished

at the middle of love

with a little bit of space around it

where we are the masters


changeable like the sea


ice, sudden, where our face is mirrored



taste of freedom compromised

by the presence of fate


for whom would I wait


with this heart all full which loss completes


will I be found when the night abounds

given over to you, inexhaustible


climb! turn far and away



that you can give the excess which arrests me


the sky: immense example

of depth and height


make of the air a round arena


effort circumscribes

our life enormous


stretched toward the night




set out in type on the page

a little




like the greyhounds

arranging their legs


the sense of our rites





who rushes, who tilts, who remains

after the abandonment of the night


starry avaricious


all the grand unbroken numbers

that the night will multiply


new celestial youth

the matutinal sky


buckles close


under the guise of tenderness


time uses his jacket


inconsolable space


turned me into wind,

placed me in the river


leaves fled . . .


I had drunk

all of my abyss


one must not tire

and eat with one’s eyes


vision watered

profusely a garden of images


each bird whose flight crosses

my expanse


nothing but looking seems like life to me


nothing but looking seems like life


while the prunes ripen

O my eyes, eaters of roses

you will drink the moon


I consent

and I consent force


oh force

does not frighten me anymore, because it cradles me


in the morning, small wild,

become almost a mouth

all worn and bloodless


Be, stars, the rhymes

found at the ends of end


say enough

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.


Like oak trees swerving out of the hills

And setting their faces to the wind

Day after day being practically lifted away

They are lashed to the earth

And never let go

Gripping on darkness


When I picture Robert, he is in the Public Garden,

watching setting suns, like the ill-fated king, turn all to gold.

Robert with the swans. Robert under the statue of Washington.

Robert amid the tulips. Without a childhood

home, I made for myself a house of orchids, of sewer grates

with fishes on them, of forsythia and maple trees.

Of this I am sure: when Robert crossed the bridge

between Boston and Cambridge, he saw Poseidon.

In late summer, he could tell that underneath

the sailboats is a god, mighty and to be feared.

In midwinter, he alone knew the ice

could not long contain that god.

In the pipes in his home, he heard the gurgle of illness.

I smell illness in the riotous orchid blooms.

What are midnight trees?

I think that once I knew one such tree,

if it is the kind owls gather on nightly

to fight, barking,

eyes dim with bloodlust and the hiss of feathers.

I built for myself a house of orchids, with a cave underneath,

a cave shaped into an armory

brimming with tarantula hawks, giant sparrow bees,

and admiral butterflies.

In place of stalactites hang treeless,

inextricable roots.

O sacred receptacle of my joys.

The day I first learned the word argonaut,

I wrote it in a poem. I searched the seas for one.

I searched the skies. I searched a painting.

In the painting, I found the word spears, which I drove slowly

into my father’s ribs. He I eulogized and he I resurrected,

reaching again for the spears. I have seen

countless full moons fail. Each of them hollowed,

flooding heartfirst the craw-faced light, the bracken

underneath. Then, the sound of a wounded owl,

a soft, sudden darkness in my throat. O, how this villainy.

In mourning, the owls are replaced by hawks.

From one angle, broad-winged hawks

seem to have two pairs of hollow eyes.

We are looking for you, say the kettles of satellites

to the humans lost, to the plane

disappeared, to what lives thirty miles below

the surface of Enceladus. On this morning in April,

Haixun 01, Ocean Shield, and HMS Echo hear a thump

that sounds like the colors inside an oyster shell.

The frequency of the noise can make a heart

stop. Anxious as seaweed, over the sides of the ships

creep hordes of trembling locators.

The satellites stare with breath hitching in their throats.

Between the wine-colored hull of Ocean Shield and Enceladus

lies eight times the distance between Earth and the sun.

Thirty miles below the surface of that geyser-ridden, tiger-striped

Saturnian moon lies life, report the satellites.

The hawks steel their two pairs of eyes up

toward alien oceans on other planets.

What I am is all that I can carry, wrote Deborah.

What can I carry? All that I caught I left behind,

all that I missed, I carried.

The hawks are not looking

toward alien oceans. I am.

I am looking, too, to alien men and women.

I picture hurtling into them, by turn, to serve my lust.

I picture us bent sideways, impaled,

contorted and screaming. I picture

the different shades of a moan.

The word bed fills the four eyes in my mind

with the color gold, gold of the ill-fated king

and the Garden sunset, gold glinting in a decaying tooth,

goldenrod, a haze of pollen, the dragon’s treasure,

a long necklace of many fine gold chains

reaching down to a woman’s hips.

Young woman walks down to the river,

down to the river of gold.

Young woman walks down to the river,

down to the river and drowns.

In the word bed also joyously wail

bed the color of ashen near death, bed the fleshly color

of bodies broken for good, bed color blue

of heart-stopped lips. O, here I lift this one hand

up to heaven. The ghosts of the poisoned dogs

live in the piano. The ghost of my mother, still living,

lives in her excised tumor and staghorn kidney stone.

The ghost of my ability to love without grief, still living,

lives in this poem. All my pockets filled with stones

in the river I’ll be found. Why, then, I am the devil’s dam—

dangle me from a cliff, twelve thousand feet above sea.

O, speak with possibilities. Build me a skin

of glass to cover the Grand Canyon,

throw me on it. Summon a thousand wilding mares,

restrain them with massive chains, foot-long links

of hardened steel. When the chains buck

from fracture, let the mares stampede the glass,

bid them trample my body.

Watch, from a great distance, as the glass cracks.

Watch us beasts entangle. Watch me take a hoof

to the mouth. To the skull. To the groin.

Hear us squeal, and bark, and howl,

calling out, as wretches do, to failing life.

When at last we one thousand and one blood-filled creatures

reach the bottom of the Canyon, throw yourself in.

My voice in your ear will tell you that you were meant to die

like this, a beautiful and inelegant dive onto a field of reds,

some bright and sun-kissed, some dark and pulp-dashed,

your and our blood across the burnt-orange schist.

See, O, see what I have done.

I fear neither the sight of nor the word for blood.

HMAS Albatross has joined the search for the plane.

It is May now, and there is no sign of it.

The detritus lied. The home I made is of orchids,

forsythia, barbed wire, and burnt metal.

In the bedroom I planted what I imagine

a midnight tree to be. Its roots join the treeless roots

in the armory beneath. Ravished, my hands cut off,

my tongue cut out, I put my home under the wisteria,

craving owls at war under thick purple overhang.

No territory there is that is not mine.

The Albatross, it is mine.

Enceladus is mine. Your innermost thigh,

beneath the wisteria, mine.

Poseidon is mine, and the river between Boston and Cambridge,

and the one that wends through Georgia, floods

into the Gulf. I am dreaming of a monument

to moments colonized by theaters of the imagination.

O monstrous. The O of a mouth without a tongue.

The O of two pairs of lips clasped,

starving on one another. Horns and cry of hounds.

The ballet in my deadly standing eye

is the arrow’s flight into the neck, the horses’ tumble into the canyon.

A nation’s search for a single tiger

with quills in its neck. A spilt cloud of felled bees.

The elephant’s horror in the flock of red-billed birds,

feathered locusts who from their first breath

form trembling caverns with their mouths, their aggregate force

snapping branches off trees. The orchestra plays low drumbeats,

a single singer carving the melody.

Do not, I pray, promise me

an untroubled lake. Take me instead

to the rivers with vengeful gods

under steaming and frozen waters.

Take me instead for the stag, the rifle, and the hunter.

Promise me unending days in which I can picture,

then picture again, a fire whirl,

the slowness of the sea drinking

a ferry or a plane, the gasps of air bubbles

around carapaces, the moons of Saturn.

I myself am hells, and I prize them

as if they were the rarest blooms.

Promise me I will always reach again for spears,

await the horses on the glass

above the gaping, hollow O of the earth.


So chants James’s Ouija.

or perhaps in the palace of time

our lives are a circular stair and i am turning,

writes Lucille’s ghost-guided hand. Always in my mouth

I hold the head of an axe with its bit at the back

of my throat. O heavens, can you hear a man groan?

Here nothing breeds but we fazed and hungry. O wondrous thing.

Worlds such as this were not thought possible to exist,

writes the astronomer. It is June.

Deep beneath those golden waves

of the river I’ll be found.

My sister has joined the list of those I mourn.

Her ghost lives in each powder-winged moth.

In the ballet, the stage fills with a troupe of dancers in dusty gold skirts,

shoes asphyxiation blue, hair the tones of flesh.

Center stage are six dancers who wear only red,

moving in unison

so they throb as one bloodied yolk.

The troupe around them shudders

as though in blissful death throes.

The single singer quiets. The orchestra

breaks down its instruments.

For my brethren slain

I ask a sacrifice,

O barbarous, beastly villains

like myself.

Die. Die saying please,

die longing, die helpless,

die with your eyes fixed

to the most treacherous side

of a mountain, to newborn stars,

to planes not found.

Die with your throat stuffed,

so that each moment hereafter

is a dream of a gasp.

Die, so that my midnight tree might grow

new branches, die, like a sapling struck by lightning

in an ash-ridden and still smoldering field,

die amid the tulips, die smelling the orchids I grow,

die in the mass of horses in a pied flock of shrieking birds.

From the oceans creatures great and small

take to the land. From the land

each parachuted seed

takes to the sky.

From within my armory

comes a scent melodious and unearthly.

A strain of moths, black, flies as though sewn

each to each at the wing. Their flight path

blooms dark into the gray air

like a print from a silvered glass plate.

Soon we will learn our bodies are formed

of dead stars, so that if we made incisions

from breastbone to rectum, the caves within

would reveal themselves to house celestial ash.

As the stag, I fear the mouth of the rifle.

As the rifle, I point my mouth, deadly, toward you.

As the hunter, I execute myself so I may feast.

Worlds such as this were not thought possible to exist.

My lord, I aim a mile beyond the honeyed moon.

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

O Spirit

It takes work for a woman to welcome a fist

With her body. Fists are larger than the spaces

They make for themselves in a chest, or the holes

Into which we welcome them with longing.

Asking whether I wish for one now because I knew

Them well as a child is like asking if a volcano

Expels lava because, when a small mountain

Cloistered within seawaters, its first experience

Of heat was unbidden. The question

Requires a certain old knowledge of safety to ask.

What does it mean that the first time you saw a cock

It was raised in menace from a boil of shared blood,

The question says. Tell me the origin story of pain,

And tell me what happens to pain as it ages,

And tell me how the ocean-bottom dirt you grew

From tastes. Volcanoes understand differences

In kinds and in chords. The origin story of pain

Is abjection, foisted. Not a single stream of lava

Is like one that has come before or will come since.

All my lips make treacherous lights float in midair.

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

“If it is the last thing I do…”

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.

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.