36. kolkata

When I was young desperation
was the bathtub after ballet,
running scalding water from the faucet
over my pointed feet
so I could bend the muscles downward,
downward into an arch against the white bottom,
until I thought my toes would break,
until I forced them, through knives of pain,
to touch the ground.

But here I am always catching up,
sprinting behind buses leaning with the weight of dangling bodies,
the words of sharp Bengali feverishly out of reach;
here Maa Durga emerges from twisted straw bundles,
her eyes smooth clay pointed with paint,
as if to challenge me that She of the Universe has come
from the dust of the sculptor’s shop—what is my excuse?

There is always something just out of reach,
and at the end of the day, my hair fans wet across the pillowcase,
the cats rip at each other in the air beside my window,
and I fall asleep, running,
the night full of red, exhilarated.


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