A Poem by Chaya Bhuvaneswar


Are much easier than ghosts, flowers,

Goddesses, planets.

(Uncomplicated pregnancy. Age 33.

She didn’t smoke.)
Precious cells and pixilated
Molecules amid fluid darkness.

(For ultrasounds, she wore a gold necklace.


Her heavy vow around the neck, unbreakable.)
Mumbled and repeated prayers, Sanskrit speech-acts.

Sarvadatugo. Giver of gifts.

(My mother furious,

Slapping my arm hard,

Taught me that Bhagwan punished us.)
Taught me Tamil words for “unclean,”
Pointing to stars and still-defiant horoscopes—

(The minute I cursed at my parents,

The hour I sent my father’s fists to hell).

Periods of time in Indian history

(The nakshatram a tent of stars,

housing our misfortune with skylight).

Memorable eras. The Iron Age of human sin.

(Muhurtam. Each moment

Being denounced by the priests,

Expressionless. Warning us not to forget.)

Chronology of major Indian events—

June—, in 19—,

The night my little brother,

In his hospital crib,

Soon after being born,

Suffered a stroke

(The night my mother, convinced forever

About the evil eye,

Hid from it, sobbing,

In a room she would force me to see).


Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a practicing physician and writer whose work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Michigan Quarterly Review, and is forthcoming in Natural Bridge, Quiddity, Cutthroat Journal (where she was selected for a poetry prize by Cornelius Eady), and in apt magazine and Hobart. She recently received the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and a Henfield award for her Pushcart-nominated writing. Follow her on Twitter at @chayab77.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.