The house of waters
I came here, looking for food. A metal I could push into my opening: the first stoma, pink
around the edges, able to rotate slightly.
(Speaking of the future: a blue tongue, from sucking on
gumballs. A yellow palm, from licking sherbert--6 ounces for 6p, in a white paper bag no
bigger than my hand--)
I went in, asking to see the jars they kept on a high shelf. Remembering myself a
girl, stained with elements.
THE COLORS OF THE WORLD ARE ITS ELEMENTS.
(They said.)(a girl's hand.)
(a real girl.)
Instead, when they opened the door and sucked me in, it was a room I'd been in
before: a waiting-room: (the faint smell of vinegar and baking soda, and a chewed-up chart
of the body, tacked to a peeling wall. A green line goes under, resurfacing in the eye. What
passes for the eye. No speckled jelly as such.)
With no obvious exits. Even the walls
Were loosening their valences, beginning to waver, turning to gold.
("Reduced to spotless.")
Mud walls whose surfaces belonged to the plantar surfaces of human hands. I could see
finger marks, whorls. Once, I was a living being, embellished with skin: fortunate and blighted
in turns. I turned. In circles. In the adventure playground, which was concrete. When I fell,
the nurse would daub me with yellow smears, that stang.
IODINE, ASPHALT, the crisp white underbelly of the woman above me. Already, I knew it.
Could see it coming: (her apron fused to her thighs.) The differential between the outer-
metal, or linen, husks, and the converse-organs, the under-tender: diminishing.
Gone. I am here now. A bit hungry. When I go in to eat. When I am offered by strangers.
I am a little bit I am rather
It goes like this: I open the door. I knock on the door. Someone comes, or does not come.
I go in. To some extent, I am a woman. Who are you?, they say, when I give them what I
have. And then it breaks. Falls vertically from their mouths, no spaces. And in one version
of what happened to me in the house of waters, I'm able to breathe in
the absence of oxygen.
Bhanu Kapil Rider is a British-Indian writer living in Colorado. A book
of her prose, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, is forthcoming
from Kelsey Street Press.