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Crows (Episode 5.3)

From her journal: “All day they conspire in the Neem Tree. Today, I lay on the bed naked and the crows all jostled to look at me, turning their heads this way and that. I covered myself with the nightdress and threw an old bag of puffed rice down, but they wouldn’t go. They wore me down then, the way you did, always looking until I wanted to see my reflection floating there in your iris. I wanted them to come inside, but there are bars on all the windows, locks on all the doors.”

Margaret: My husband was a logging man. Cooper: Oh? Margaret: He met the devil. Fire is the devil, hiding like a coward in the smoke. Dr. Hayward: It was the day after the wedding, wasn’t it Margaret. Hawk: The wood holds many spirits, doesn’t it Margaret? (Episode 5.2)

Q: Are you telling me she was involved in some kind of … ritual?

A: Throw a stone and you’ll hit a ritual. You don’t understand the ceremony of life here. America is made of discarded skin cells that floated across the ocean. Now the indigenous people of your land, they understood. Have you ever been in a sweat lodge? Done Peyote? If you have, then you could maybe begin to understand who she was.

Q. So, there were drugs involved in this ritual?

A: If one can find the divine, even in a body polluted with lust and poison and violence, then, can you comprehend, the power available? These trees that live, their leaves, covered in soot, still turning towards the sun. Still producing the oxygen that you consider polluted, with your black mucus membranes.

Q. You are saying she was involved in drugs?

A. I can smell the drugs you did. They were manufactured in a factory using chemicals that are used to clean floors, remove spots. Have they removed the spots in your brain?

Q. I saw a woman possessed by Mata-ji. Red kum-kum powder dribbled up from her gullet, leaked from her hands. She pulled a small handkerchief slowly from her throat, covered in viscous red slime. I watched as she put her hands in the fire. Is this what she used to do?

A. Hokum. Charlatans. Spectacle. You saw nothing. If you don’t believe, than what did you see?

Q. Is it true, that if you possessed her when she was possessed, you become immortal?

A. Yes, and afterwards we would melt our hands into the chest of slave laborers and rip out their hearts. KALI MA! SHAKTI DEY! Her womb was the resting place of my shankara stone. You insult with your effrontery. Your time is up. Pay the requested the amount and we’ll do the puja. Then be on your way. But first, ask the question that you came to ask.

Q. I don’t know.

A. Yes, she looks like you, yes.

Maybe that’s our trouble, Ed. We never wanna hurt anyone. We never just take what we want. There’s a part of me that’s beginning to think this is how it is when you get to the end of your life and you don’t have anything to show for it. (Episode 5.1)

Found among her things, this list:

Green bench at the lake

behind the tree that looks

like a goddess with her

head chopped off.

The roof

of Happiness at dusk.

I’ll walk north through Gariahat and you

walk south. Brush against me

at the belt stall. The alley

behind the Ganesha Mandir, during

Lakshmi Puja. The pond in Behala

where the maidservants bathe during

their menses. Priya Theater, Balcony Seats,

left side, closest to the wall.

It’s darkest there.

(the cemetery the cemetery the cemetery)

Kalighat on Tuesdays, when the crowd is

seething. I’ll be behind you.

A rickshaw headed away

from the Tollygunge

Metro Station, both of us

in the front seat. My

hand brushes your shoulder

around the driver’s

sweat-stained back. Zeeshan Park Circus,

the upstairs room, corner booth. The National

Library, underneath the haunted tree, or

if it is raining, by the card catalog. I’ll

be looking up the word: unbearable.

Walk by the house, when I can’t

stand it anymore,

don’t look up, just let me

see you

in the yellow sodium lights.

Truman: How’d you lose the arm? Gerard: Car accident. I was on the road from Memphis to someplace. Selling pharmaceuticals, pretty good job! (Episode 4)

I first see the one-armed man in my circumambulations of the lake. His vigorous exercises catch my attention. He sprints in the overgrown football pitch early in the mornings, when the fog is still tucked close to the lake. He lives in a tarp-roof shack on the grounds of the railway quarters. The pan-wallah I ask says that they let him stay there because he lost his arm in a railway accident. But no one knows for sure. The one-armed man keeps to himself. Some say that he has no tongue either. That would account for the guttural sounds he makes while exercising. He has affixed a metal bar between two close-growing trees near his shack, and does one-handed pull-ups there, keening with the effort of it. A sound that makes the birds fly off with discomfiture.

All in all, his behavior keeps people away, but it draws me to him. I start to come back daily for the sound. Hidden from view on a bench, I crack open cigarette after cigarette—mashing the tobacco and hash together between my fingers. It echoes in my chest, his moans.

Sometimes, at night, I discover that he brings a prostitute home—a fat one with a big mole on her forehead like an off-center bindi. He makes similar sounds like when he does his pull-ups: loud, grunting howls. One night, when he brings the prostitute home, I sit outside his hut, kneeling in the dirt with my ear against the wall—feeling the vibration of his sounds like a deaf person. I imagine his ghost arm clutching at her back; his ghost fingers jamming into her asshole.

One day, he forgoes his usual routine and I follow his determined gait to the Lake Gardens Train Station, where he catches a local to Ballygunge. It’s not hard to keep him in my sights, even in the jostle of the station. We both board the Kakdip train south. Next to me, two little boys pass a mongoose back and forth, bickering about who should hold it. Perhaps he is going to visit family, I think about the one-armed man, who has wedged himself into a small space next to the open door—the sunlight flickering across his angular face. He jumps off at Dakshin Barasat, and I hurry to follow him, thinking he’ll take a rickshaw van to go visit a sister in the rice paddies, where I won’t be able to stay secreted. But instead, he crosses the tracks back to the other side, and takes the arriving train back to Suryapur.

There, he paces back and forth, smoking a bidi, which he lights of a burning rope hanging by the chai stall. An older woman is hunched on the ground near where I stand, her thin light-colored sari flounced around her. She complains bitterly about her daughter-in-law, who she says can’t cook and has an acid tongue.

She’s ugly, too, the old woman says, we should have sent her back where she came from.

The man with one arm continues to walk his jolted, hitching stride, squinting his eyes in the direction that the train will come. Now the old lady says that the daughter-in-law refuses sex at night, she could hear the struggle on the next mat in their one room house.

I should just go over there and hold her legs open, the old woman cackles.

The train approaches with its whistle and blurred loudspeaker announcements, and the old woman spits a stram of betel nut juice at my feet. The one-armed man is still, his head cocked, waiting. It is as though he is in a trance. Even the old woman looks up at him.

What’s wrong with this one? she snickers to her companions.

Just as the train starts moving again, the man reaches down with his one arm and rips off her gold chain and quickly stuffs it in his mouth. It must have been real, the gold soft as butter. Then he runs, his one arm flapping like a chicken wing.

Thief! Thief! The old woman yells, but it is too late, the man jumps onto the moving train with perfect balance as it leaves the station. For a moment, he wavers backwards, as though he is going to fall onto the unforgiving tracks, his good arm grasping, but then he finds the side of the door, and he slips inside. The old woman beats her head and stretches her open, wrinkled palm towards the dwindling train car in the distance. 

This owl is definitely not what it seems.

{Julien Salaud Messenger of Night (2011)}

This owl is definitely not what it seems.


{Julien Salaud Messenger of Night (2011)}

"I’m not afraid of any damn funeral. Afraid? I can hardly wait. Afraid??? I’m gonna turn it upside down!" (Episode 3)

When the boatman lets me off at Nimtala, the lights go off near the river. The glow from the fires shudders around everything, making me squint and try to see where I am stepping. I had seen a rat earlier. It’s body as long as my forearm. A man chops wood, the echo of his axe rings like a prayer bell. Another man balances a large pile of round logs on his head and carries the wood to the towering pile. He is slow and deliberate. I sit against the ashy steps and I keep trying to look into the flames and separate the fluid shapes of the fire from the static of flesh and bone. Is it her? I imagine the fire spitting fizzled sparks because she is still water-logged from the lake. Behind me, a large cow munches on hay, then follows a man down the steps, it’s hooves clopping in time with the axe. The pyres are built delicately like a game of balance, and the garlands envelop corpses so richly, it is as though I am witnessing a ritual of burning floral effigies. It’s so dark, everything around me—wood cutter, cow, corpse—in shadow, silhouetted against the leaping flames. The pyres are lonely. Most of them tended by just one worker. The man stokes the flames of her medium-sized pyre with a long pole. I squint to try and envision the body that burns there. Her breasts melting down into her ribs. Her heart turning into a chemical compound and evaporating into the air. The man, leans on his pole and pulls a phone from the folds in his lungi. The artificial glow on his face outshines the orange firelight. Later, I pay him the cost of burning ten bodies to collect her teeth for me. I want to see if they are crooked like mine.

Whoah! Grace Zabriskie’s debut poetry collection Poems out from NYQ Press.

Whoah! Grace Zabriskie’s debut poetry collection Poems out from NYQ Press.

The Owls Are Not What They Seem

OMG, need owl pasties ASAP.


Someone apparently did a Twin Peaks themed burlesque with an amazingly awesome Log Lady….with owl pasties.


{In love with Twin Peaks}


{In love with Twin Peaks}

Audrey: “Do you like coffee?” Donna: “Yeah, with cream and sugar.” (Episode 2)

I meet a filmmaker for coffee on Sarat Bose Road. She wears thick kajol on her eyes and we sit outside where all the young people smoke cigarettes. The filmmaker says that no one ever believes her order of black coffee, that the waiter always returns asking if she is sure she doesn’t want milk and sugar. I wonder if coffee and cigarettes are allusions to other drugs, other ideas. “Of all the drugs I’ve ever done, coffee hits me the hardest,” I say, but the joke doesn’t go over well here. The filmmaker’s mouth moves tightly over her crooked teeth and suddenly I am thinking about a girl I used to make out with. I can taste the soot from the awkward cigarette we smoked after a failed threesome with my boyfriend. As if on cue, the waiter returns and asks if she really wants her coffee black. The next week, I return to the coffee shop and sit inside, watching the way a girl with dark circles under her eyes watches a boy with a motorcycle helmet who flits from table to table. She chain smokes cigarette after cigarette and it makes me want to kiss her, to taste the bitterness on her tongue. After everyone has gone, the boy leaves and the girl follows, silently. She gets on the back of his motorcycle and they ride off in the direction of the lake-her thighs pressed tightly against his.