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