Bhanu Kapil

Bhanu Kapil

ENTRE-BAN: a triptych

1. To be entre-Ban is to be “Ban-like.”

The forest was like a plate or shelf with two hands cupping it then tilting the bracken, oaks, paths of green moss, the massive white mushrooms with the red polka dots, from side to side.  Ban, entre or “ex” – Ban: slipped off the sidewalk that ran along the fence in an instant, like milk poured on the ground.

The fence was like a bracket or comb.

Slipped off + seeped = life.

The forest was a face and the street is a leg and the body a sky.

Below the street ran a conduit from the River Brent, a tributary of the broader Thames. Here, in Middlesex, stags and lightning once roamed, mating with each other to produce generic silver hearts with antlers that, to do this day, can be seen on English belts.

These trinkets survived fires.

So easily.

2.  In a family group, we wove a leopard with blood dripping from its mouth. “GOOD NIGHT,” we said, speaking for the leopard in unison, then blocking out the letters with a tatty ball of hemp. 

Nanny let us pull the red threads through.

These were our arts when we lived in a colony.

On other days, we peeled potatoes, built smoky fires, decorated the dirt outside the house with white sand. We poured milk into the Sutlej, a river that starts in Tibet, crosses India and exits (to the sea) in Pakistan.

Eventually, we left our home and got as far away from it as we could.

Because that is what we did as a family.

Because look at us now.

We killed off our daughters.  

We threw them from a roof.

3.  Imagine an abandoned labyrinth, bisected, shimmering with lesions.  

Day 3 is like this. 

A photograph of another world develops from these images for about two seconds before someone throws it in the trash, mistaking it (the weak photograph) for packaging.

The photograph blanches then recedes then fizzes, like soda on a stain.

I remember how my child’s shoulder smoothly turned and moved, a swimmer’s turn, visible through my own taut skin.

In the photograph.

Yes, like that.

The electricity, which will never be born and which never died, came from somewhere else and then was captured.

It is volatile.

It has a legal structure.

There’s no caption.

It smells.

Some questions:

Is this infancy?

Is this a shrine?

Eat the photograph.

There’s nothing to transmute.

BHANU KAPIL is the author of several collections, most recently, Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat Books) and How To Wash A Heart (Pavillion Poetry). In 2020, she won a Windham-Campbell Prize for Poetry from Yale University and a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors.