Poem by Bhanu Kapil


(I’ve been thinking lately about the esophageal tract — the
relationship of sound to poetry. And how a hand on the throat, in
desire as in violence, is real. But if poetry is written in a third
space, some place less obvious than the colors blue or red, then where
is that space? I contend that it is metallic, off-white and filled with
women. There are soft lights and a faint odor of chilled peppermint
liqueur. So what about Loveland Family and Cosmetic Dentistry on North
Cleveland Avenue? As a venue. Venue 1, for these parallel notes.)

I am writing this on a dentistry pad. The kind in a wicker basket on
the receptionist’s banquette. Is that a word? I want a blanket, there
on the reclining chair. And hold it open with your fingers. And wire it
open like a jaw. Now I’m shivering. Are you shivering? Can I get you a
quilted coverlet or a bolster for your neck? Please keep your hands
where I can see them at all times. Just relax. But I like it. I like to
receive an altering touch. To the mouth, to the teeth, the soft as to
the hard. Yep, I’d like to book my next appointment.

Venue 2: A room, the next street over. I’d like to keep going, but
that would be to fantasize. Something about poetry keeps you in the
padded chair, where you belong: irradiated, legless, smiling witlessly
and yet with ardor at the strangers who surround you when you wake up
from a deep, deep sleep. They’re asking you something but something
about about poetry makes you drool and respond, in fragments of your
true speech. I don’t know if it’s poetry. Are you normal? Are you a
conventional patient who’s come prepared with a supply of kleenex
tucked into the sleeve of your cardigan? No. Clearly, you’re not. You
should go home. I’m going to call you a cab, ma’am. You’re in no
condition to drive.

by Bhanu Kapil

published in Ars Poetica


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