by Sumana Roy

To desire loyalty after death
seems slightly corrupt:
like the interest earned on a fixed deposit,
money – which worked and exercised
while we rested – growing abstract muscles.
My childhood was a training to be that dog –
the dog Nipper from His Master’s Voice,
its story in my father’s voice,
curdled with mammalian expectation.
That I would love those who’d left,
that I’d sit by their voice and wait,
wait for song to become body and grow hair and hands,
wait for them to return,
as inevitably as the other end of a belt;
to know that these breaks and brakes
were as natural to life as caesuras in music …
that absence was only a trinket,
that disappearance was natural,
like baldness: that I should love
the head for the vanished hair.
This was conditioning to live as synecdoche –
to treat their absence as only a hole in a garment …

I have lived like a dog,
barking at the moon and at car lights,
not knowing one from the other,
taking both to be a sign of arrival,
of their coming …
Their name on the phone screen,
like a comet that’ll disappear again;
a hair on the pillow –
I’ve watched over it, to see it grow;
an old photo,
that I’ve filled with my blood …
But returning isn’t easy –
no one returns, not hair, not blood, not light.
Music is not in the strings, not in the throat –
this my dog-bodied heart doesn’t know …
It waits – for them to emerge from the bellows.


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.

Cover image: From Head of a Dog, Edvard Munch, 1930