The Imaginary “I”
Poem by Vivek Narayanan
We have left the company compound, its fence
of bound yellowed grass swaying on stilts. Mrs. Young,
the manager’s wife, is inside with her phonograph
for comfort and my mother, in the kitchen, turned to
another unpeopled day. Near naked,
hairs curled, I’m the villager’s favourite. A man
takes my hand and laughs: I take in his rows
of perfect teeth, red eyes, uncombed hair.
He takes my hand: look, something over there.
The sun breaks the canopy of leaves. The arrow
is a straight twig rare among the trees. Laughing,
he shaves it with a knife large
for the purpose, wrists alert, whole seam
of his arm to the handle, until it is stripped white
and sharpened on one end. Laughing,
he cuts a groove into the other, still blunt side.
So tell, who is this man who takes my hand
or draws the loaded bowstring back, who leans
against his scissored leg to let the arrow flow? Reader,
he’s lost, as are those sparse and scrubby woods.
What continues is the arrow in its unrecorded flight
lodged before it has left his hand
in the blister bark of that tree and, when you pull away,
a small and perfect pink oval. Why does it stay,
the smallest thing, that near-human pink splayed
like surgery into that black and tan bark? The scene
of an unsolved crime, sticking regardless to me,
waking in this empty room,
the sunlight through burglar bars,
the linoleum’s interlocking design.
All images from the series The Imaginary “I”
35mm digital camera