Urvi Kumbhat shares a poem on listening to the way the body speaks

Part of The Stakes of Naming, a series that asks an array of writers and artists what they need to say to live.




the right side of my body has its private life, the left side blithe and detached

             my right side forgets nothing, registers each gesture

           in a permanent archive                        click, shimmy, sway

as a girl, I told doctors how I spun apart at my centre, how one side was unlike the other

                     my parents followed me from appointment to appointment

                               until their faith

       turned sour

                  my left side, wilful in erasure, scrubbed the record first

                             the medical nothings persevered until I couldn’t sense

                  their deviant pulses

       some pain congealed in one wrist, one ankle, one hip bone

                 at the movies, I tapped          my right foot              then my left foot

                             the carpet travelled at different rates up my legs

the doctors scanned my brain, my spine attached to it

           as a girl, I was given to narrative excess and had they asked

                      I would have told them

                                what my body articulated—

           some antithetical material, disharmony reverberating into

                      my pelvic floor, changing its topography

           if I could pull the two sides apart, I know what I would find

on the left side, a liquid curdling                                     on the right side, every wound
producing its own fermentation                                sting and stitch clumped together—
turning blissful, unrecognisable                                         wet dough to be pulled apart
like the future, knotted and curved                      with a fork, then stretched on the floor
like my stomach—small universe                                  to bake under the sun—history of
hollow as an electric socket                                stubbed toe, scraped knee, ovarian cyst

                                        waiting for me

                                                  to get there

                                        to the girl

                                                   I was




Urvi Kumbhat is a writer from Calcutta. She is currently a PhD student in English at Princeton University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Protean Magazine, Lit Hub, The Margins, and elsewhere.

Banner illustration: Jocelin Kee. 




Poetry & Fiction
Fri, 13 Oct 2023

Relevant content

The Stakes of Naming
Part of series

The Stakes of Naming

A series that asks an array of writers and artists what they need to say to live