A Fable for the 21st century
Existing is plagiarism – EM Cioran
There is no end to unknowing. We read papers. Wrap fish in yesterday's news, spread squares on the floor so puppy can pee on Putin's face. Even the mountains cannot say what killed the Sumerians all those years ago. And as such, you should know that blindness is historical, that nothing in this poem will make you thinner, richer, or smarter. Myself – I couldn't say how a light bulb worked, but if we threw you headfirst into the past, what would you say about the secrets of chlorophyll? How would you expound on the aggression of sea anemones, the Battle of Plassey, Boko Haram? Language is a peculiar destiny. Once, at the desert's edge, a circle of pilgrims spoke of wonder – their lives dark with mud and hoes. They didn't know you could make perfume from rain, that human blood was more fattening than beer. But their fears were ripe and lucent, their clods of children plentiful, and God walked among them, knitting sweaters for injured chevaliers. Will you tell them how everything that's been said is worth saying again? How the body is helicoidal, spiriting on and on how it is only ever through the will of nose, bronchiole, trachea, lung, that breath outpaces any sadness of tongue.
This poem is in Girls are Coming out of the Woods, published in 2018 by Bloodaxe Books. Tishani Doshi is an Indian poet, journalist and dancer based in Chennai. In 2006 she won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection for her debut poetry book Countries of the Body. Her book A God at the Door was shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize.