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Nothing Against Swag

Satya Dash

The newspaper headline made it clear—

                               you don’t have to be sober to save

a life—the story of an intoxicated man

                               booking an Uber to a rehabilitation center

for the sole passenger: a dying goldfinch. By ways of induction

                               I didn’t know were possible, I found

myself wishing for a rescue of similar proportions—

                               sawdust in my shy mouth, diagonal flurries

of blustery wind knocking my running face like a punching bag,

                               out of me rose a river of blue vomit

littered with golden stars and vintage trinkets

                               making a profane sludge that flared amber

and settled its bright dung right in front

                               the door of my future father-in-law’s

apartment. Determined to turn embarrassment

                               into bewilderment, I pretended to lie

down, like only a creature in a pool of its own suffering

                               can. The performance of stupor, difficult

to enjoy unless one really fell asleep. If my conscious

                               slumped over in this immersion, I don’t


know. In the hospital, the softest part of my body suffered

                               the injection of a hypodermic needle. In a more

desirable state, the real question: why always subject softness

                               to such piercing impact? Anaesthetized, my throaty

squawk: a roomy drawl. The circumstances

                               unpinnable, the dates of adversity always had 

the year missing. The day of my bachelor party, I woke

                               up in a Moroccan lounge. Asked to improvise

a belly dance before I had even brushed my teeth,

                               I lifted the veil off my face to apply some strawberry

lip balm. The dense crowd of mannequins sizzled and spat

                               a series of heavy metal laughs. Sensing

a rare chance for resonance, I hitched my cackle to the same

                               pitch. The floorboards creaked with giggly

pleasure, as beside me an urn toppled. I hardly flinched

                               when it rolled over to my bare feet. 

Satya Dash is the recipient of the 2020 Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize and a finalist for the 2020 Broken River Prize. His poems appear in The Boiler, Anomaly, Chestnut Review, Rhino Poetry, Cincinnati Review, and Diagram, among others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator. He has been nominated previously for Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best New Poets. He grew up in Cuttack and now lives in Bangalore, India. He tweets at: @satya043

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