by Kirun Kapur
You are driving me today from the soil and from
your face I shall be hidden. And I shall be a fugitive
and wanderer on the earth. . . . And Cain went out
from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land
of Nod to the east of Eden. —Genesis 4:14, 16
I left by train, taking only a blade.
How long could it take
to reach my end? The first car
carried winds repeating names.
The next one swayed with
slim bodies the humiliated
were willing to exchange.
A compartment of only moans;
one whose floor was stained
by untouched offerings. A carriage
coffer of dresses still smelling
of perfume. Another bearing faces
you prayed to love. Another of loves
you happily betrayed. Another
paved with eyes expecting
explanation. Carriage after
carriage, even this I could survive.
A car of the unidentified
blurred urges. A car of fists
and fingers clutching brushes,
shovels, spoons. Why
didn’t I take up my knife,
open a vein? Was it snow obliterating
gate and grave with flakes
I could melt on my tongue?
The poppy’s head darkening over
mulch-beds of men or bull’s bone
or potato skins—the indifferent
and the shocking reds crossed
like fingers? Luck appears
like grace: a crippling need to pay
attention while the train chugs on
from its origin. I fell into the day
from my mother’s curses and strains.
Out of the tunnel I came, looking
at everything. The midwife had to strike
me twice before I’d call for you.
Kirun Kapur was a 2002-03 poetry fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and will be a fellow at the Macdowell Colony this fall. Her work has appeared recently in or is forthcoming from Seneca Review, Cider Press Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. (2003)