Bhanu Kapil: From Humanimal: A Project for Future Children

Spring '06 TOC

1. Is this the humanimal question? No, it's a disc, transferring light from corner to corner of the girl's eye. Like an animal tapetum / the way at night an animal. Animal eyes, in the darkness of the back room where he kept her, his girl, deep in the Home. 2. Where is the future child? Curled up with wolves, sub-red, the wolfgirl's eyes changed structure. This is a boring word. Then, she's nine or ten, and a tall, extremely handsome Father, sidetracked from his Mission–dressed in black despite the heat–catches her in a bedsheet and writes: "I cut a hole and removed her from the cave." 3. In Midnapure, in a back room, a jute bed is converted to a low cot. Strapped in, the wolfgirl turns her face from the window. Are there windows? It's 1921, mid-November, and I can't find her sometimes, on the other side of everything. Stresses of light–I don't know how to change them, these amounts. This is absurd. I write on a piece of paper all morning, then fold it in two.

a. All branches stir in their silver. Like a liquid metal–the jungle. For her, the girl-tenticular. Does the skin crêpe, where her fingers are too wet, trailing in the river? This is what a child does, as in fairytales. This is walking. I want to. All branches fear life. It pushes and pushes: life. Out to the tips where the color is. Does this happen in Asian forests? Does this tree say yes, damaged by its yes, to phloem–the food to the lips? Of the branches where the leaves are and thus a leaf girl–leaping from branch to branch in her dream of being a girl and not this, this other disastrous thing?

4. This is the humanimal project. All the fingers are still inside the hands. A mother-to-be's hips ache. In the forest behind her hut, the birds are so red, the wrong red, against the bed of green. A forest is a bed for animals. When the rains come each June, these animals make nets in the upper branches, suffering nightly–twitching–from an incomplete, lunar darkness. It's the time before electricity. Those are not birds. They are wolves, switching their glossy brown tails in the heat. As custom dictates, the woman gives birth, then places her newborn girl on a shawl in the sun, massages her with coconut oil, and leaves her there to bathe in the warm light. Lit up like that, the baby is vulnerable, naked thus flesh-like, fleshed like prey, but flailing–four legs in the air like pink, elongated stars. 5. Return to the work as memory. Say it is a wolf becoming a girl, the action in reverse. I am not interested in animals. These questions came towards me the way light does, and I felt them, felt where they came in my body (turned into jam). 6. They strapped her down to the limited table where the knife spun in a jar of blue water and oranges were lined up on a sill, like dried skulls, for protection. There were marigolds and red threads from last Christmas knotted and sewn into the curtains. They fed her with water from a coil of linen, squeezing it into her mouth as they said her name: Kamala. What was your name? Then a raw, green berry, sweeter than bread when followed by water. She spat and keened but. Unable. The doctor came to her bed, hoping she had softened. With his packet of edges. Dipped one into the glutinous foam and began. Her arms first. The thick dorsal hair, ashy. What will, the Father said to the Reverend Mother, the congregation say?

b. Mist rose in cubes. With hard fingers, they tore strips from my spine. All blonde-black fur. All hair from a previous life. They called it submerging. Phoneme and problem: in the after. In the next room, where everyone is waiting, servants maneuver tall wooden poles into the slitted flaps of canvas fans on the ceiling. They are paid to do this by the church, like small men with hands. The Reverend Mother says dirty. Dirty boys. I am a girl, innards blue as...eyes–I don't know. They said the wolf my mother protected me then fled, backwards into her blood. No birth they said: No mother. This is a road like a scrubbed, pink bone. I walk for days but cannot find her.

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Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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