Excerpt from entre-Ban
(Vallum Chapbook Series, No. 22)

57 Deletions [Mutations] for Ban [4]:

1. My father was 57 years old when he died, in a hospice in Northwick Park, on a February morning so long ago that I still loved my son’s father with an unearthly bitterness that was assuaged by the slightest deviation from our sexual norms.

2. Colonial force that shows up in the present as too much space, too many fragments, theories of prebiotic conditioning or excellence that bring into proximity the two “static mirrors.” Yes, I met Joan Retallack once, on the outskirts of Detroit. She was wearing a blue coat. Was it her? It was a glimpse. Was I there?

3. “At the beginning of my life I traveled a lot. I kept making trips. I was restless. But since I have my temple, the visitors come to see me.” Mahmoud Darwish, who came from: “there.” “One day,” he writes, “I will be what I want to be.” Alongside Ban, I read poetry that names something I can’t get to, in the writing that, though I learn it by heart, is not inclusive. In fact, I realize that even my handwriting causes other people pain.

4. Something yellow next to the glass. A raised boundary of earth. Ban has left her house and run. Through the streets to get here. A mere ten minutes away. Where the rain has begun to fall lightly, like icy sugar, through the branches and leaves. And it’s here that Ban lies down, neglected, but also alert, grasping something, the changing light, like a vine. Or an antique rose. Descending, she’s also tasting. Out slips her lime green tongue. This, for example, is the wet, silky, tamper-proof smell of smoke that Ban has carried into the forest. In the folds and creases of her creamy skin, her dangerous expression and her uniform, which is pink and white in summer, and maroon come Autumn, Winter and the beginning part of Spring.

5. In the break between classes, I saw a dark green mesh, 18 x 18, crouching down in the greenhouse by the rosemary plant, just to breathe it in, the atmosphere of fragrant herbs, a reprieve from the corridor, the weirdly progressive yet racist colleagues in the Department of Creative Writing. Crouching like that, I recalled the Tschumi-grid. It’s 3 x 3. Can this be my lemon tree/fig tree grid for Ban? “Is everything okay?” Worked on promotion dossier. Once home, did not go outside. Am re-learning the milky writing, the terribly open writing I learned in the U.S. but which nevertheless affirmed the increment, the part of being here that was a trap. That kept me in my place. That opened its mouth then closed it. Throat, neck. Wrist, ankle. Purse, coin. Register, fate. Dog, owl.

6. Even as a very young child, I recall the desire, or the image really, of my own neck in the mouth of a tiger, a lion or bear. To some extent, I wanted that. I wanted to feel the inside of my body as much as the outside where the wings and talons retracted then unfurled. I wanted to walk away from my family into the outer belt, the sparkling hills. “You look like Shiva,” said my mother when I came back from a deeper form of play, my hair matted and my dress torn. Should I include these memories, germinal, endocrine, angular, sooty, in Ban? Should I write about the red dirt road, the muddy white horse, the sun? The rough arcs, the slowness of patterned activity? Or should I describe, more formally, succinctly: my experiences with extremely violent, persistent, and imaginative men?

7. We lay down next to the green and silver water, eye level to the sparks and drops spat out and up where the waves hit the dirt of the beach. Why is a fluid, starred image ordinary in photography but unacceptable in literature? Centralize the grid with its blocky, geometric rose. Enlarge the photograph. Paste the photograph with honey and oil, then linen, a piece of white material like cotton, but lighter, torn into strips. Is there a part of you that believes you will never be loved?

8. Ban is like that pallid, flame-headed mermaid in some sense, the one who arced up and out of her own pyre. The one who leaped into the Ganges and was carried downstream by the pink dolphins. Received at the delta by new animals, a whale, this body drifts, propped on the back of wetness, to a sleek, an open space like a gazing bowl or glass, mid-ocean, where the lightning collects in a caul of residual plastics and pulpy bulbs of kelp. What is a mermaid? The great silence speaks to a violence that is sexual, historical, because look at her thighs. Her mutation is never to open, never to replicate, never to bleed. Nevertheless, for the purpose of these notes, I’d like to focus on a specific betrayal. Shoals, electrolytes. Helper beings. No, I am trying to write about a rape.

9. The novel’s experiment is an experiment with emptiness, with the fear of empty spaces. Of the two arrangements, I understood that the first was akin to labyrinths, alphabets, the desire to let whatever wanted to come to the surface come to the surface, and that the second was like a bulb, a glass bulb, crushed underfoot, a boot, upon the street. Which novel would appeal more to tall men with meaty legs? The men are all called Ranjit, their surnames all begin with S and they all live in Chicago. They are off-duty security and/or IT professionals who have just discovered Tinder. You exchange phone numbers. They say: “Can you take a taxi down?” Hastily, you scribble: “Take Lakeshore to the 57th Street exit.” Is there something wrong with your brain?

10. A frosted pink hand.


Bhanu Kapil teaches Interdisciplinary Studies and Core Classes in Contemplative Education ad Diversity for Naropa University, and Creative Writing as part of Godard College’s MFA (Port Townsend campus). She is currently rewriting [emptying] her fifth book, Ban en Banlieue (Nighboat Books, 2016).

To purchase or learn more about this chapbook, please click here.

This excerpt was also published in issue 14:2. To view other poems published in this issue, please visit Vallum’s website.

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