by Sumana Roy

Here they are –
as smooth as death, as calm as the ignorant;
the music of algae in a lap of blue,
in the province of Anna Atkins’s photogram.

In all of these – a blue film;
cyanotypes, as if that name was necessary
to stress its seriousness –
is the insurance of memory.

So many firsts –
the first photogram;
the first division of the plant kingdom.
The myths of the first boy in class,
of origin, and algae’s absentmindedness.

And the confusion
(like identifying a perfume from a fragrance) –
plant or animal?
Algae, either and or, always swimmer,
always the wind in wind-ow;
algae, crossing borders without ceremony.
Now they treat you as lab animal,
as synecdoche for water,
as if your nose was pressed against glass,
as if you were your own public.

I don’t need to know this.
I don’t care for the hygiene of information.
(Only once, when reading Fanon, I wondered –
Does Algiers get its name from algae?)

Now all knowledge is a suburb to the self.
There’s only the elasticity of this picture –
the inheritance of its foreignness,
the panic of chlorophyll when meeting light,
the vulnerability of attachment,
its dunking in gravity like a lost bird;
losing dimensions, flattened like a blink
until suddenly awake, like a tickle –
the transformation of Laminaria digitata
into Matisse’s Blue Nude;
the psychology of the first life on earth
captured as in an inkblot test.


About the Author:

Sumana Roy’s first book, How I Became a Tree, a work of non-fiction, was published in India in February 2017. Her first novel, Missing, was published in April 2018. Her poems and essays have appeared in GrantaGuernicaLARBDrunken Boat, the Prairie SchoonerThe Common and other journals. She lives in Siliguri in India.