Looking At Myself

by Bibhu Padhi (May 2016)

I watch myself. From a distance

that is not too far for a clear sight,

nor too near so I see myself blurred.

What are the things I am made of?

Carbon. An innocent answer issues

from somewhere far from here.

I go on asking everyone what

carbon is—starting with my

twenty-year old son studying

Chemistry, and then older friends

who might know better to be able

to show me what it looks like.

And finally there the answers.

Diamond. Graphite. Coal. Shoot.

There are other names, perhaps

too little liked by memory for

remembering easily. I ask them

to show me carbon, not just tell me

what it looks like. Following

the Hindu custom, it is what you

will be after your funeral, polluting

an air already polluted by your

desire and tendency to show off.

Ash. That is what you are and

will be, just like all that you see

here, where you have lived for

five decades and more, elsewhere—

wherever life is or supposed to be,

far from here, in the spiral galaxies,

the single stars, their solar complexities.

I look at myself long and hard enough

to see the carbon that I am or supposed

to be. Everything seems simplified.

I feel my responsibility to remain

in the form so affectionately granted

by someone who loves carbon so much,

someone who so accurately weaves

so many different bodies out of what he is.

An act of pure love carried out without

effort, costing nothing, precious

like diamonds, priceless like shoot or ash.

Then the feeling, I am what he is,

what, from time to time, he needs to be.

Bibhu Padhi




Bibhu Padhi’s tenth book of poems, Midnight Diary, has just been published. He lives with his family in Bhubaneswar, India.


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