Two poems by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

The ripeness of her white breasts always captivated my father, who called her “Mrs.,”
tipping an invisible top-hat, letting her husband glare at him.
Her husband was the crazy one, much older, wizened man in a ski-cap. A bookkeeper,
Maybe a lawyer, wearer of suits under large shabby coat under that wool cap of a
Mugger, of a miscreant, a homeless man, a bum, and all the other names my father said.
The “Mr.” could be found some nights, or in the middle of the night, bending to pick up
trash, believing that by cleaning up white and dark pieces of paper trash on the street,
He was behaving in a classy way, and could be worthy of “Mrs.”
My father and the poor man’s wife exchanged glances.
My mother, leaning from our door, shouted to “Mr.,” Thank you
very much For cleaning up.




How easy it could be, to destroy the body:

This is what I said to you. I was sitting at your feet,

Nervous that my hair wasn’t touchable enough.

Letting a movie about Latin American prisoners play on, while others watched.

It hurt me physically that you brought a girl to the party.

It was 1995, Clinton era. We had no thought of bleak days ever surfacing.

Trying to make TV “something we could look back on doing, at Oxford”

Almost succeeding, because of how afraid I was of you.

I was a virgin, still, at 24.

Convinced I’d be destroyed if anyone touched me.

How bitter that you didn’t give me time to stop being afraid.

But then the worst of it: going to your room all made-up, ready to declare myself ready, then seeing the sheets on your bed whipped up, tussled, and you saying:

I’m expecting someone, actually. You mind?

How this led to me punching you that hard in the shoulder, in public, I can’t say.

I’d almost forgotten—but later we laughed about it, didn’t we?

When that girl disappeared, and we tried going on a “date” as it was called, but really it was

Your teaching me that it was alright to let you near

All right for us to dress for each other,

All right for me to lean into you a little bit,

All right for us to think about a film about Algerians in Paris, commenting on violence,

And then all right to go out for ice cream, sitting close enough so our legs touched.

When you said, making me afraid again, but able finally, finally, to really look at you:

Listen—I won’t be ready for something like this until I’m at least 35.


Chaya Bhuvaneswar has appeared in The Awl, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere.



(Front page image via)

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