From the Afterlife

On Kirun Kapur:

Kirun Kapur grew up in Hawaii and has since lived and worked in North America and South Asia. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, FIELD, The Christian Science Monitor and many other journals and news outlets. She is the winner of the 2012 Arts & Letters/Rumi Prize for Poetry and the 2013 Antivenom prize for her first book, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist. She is co-director of the popular Boston-area arts program The Tannery Series and is poetry editor at The Drum. Find out more at

From the Afterlife

“From the Afterlife” first appeared in Arts & Letters Issue 27.

I wanted to be a bone—white like
the Taj Mahal, hard as a puritan—

when vein and wish are stripped
still able to rattle the essential notes.

But no music gets made when you pit
your self against ideas of yourself.

Dust suits me better. Grey-brown fleck—
I can mix, move into the smallest space,

spark the grittiest tunes. Divide me
into fifty states: winsome, wondering, crazed, my face

scattered by teaspoon. Over the Great Basin
of played out mines and salts rising in a haze,

over hard farmed heartland, the bent
fair-headed wheat, the combine’s cloud,

silt along the fat lip of river bed. Semis
hissing and grumbling in tongues.

I can still feel the hum of the telephone wires,
running from one life to another. I filled the lines

in case a story is a body, in case we lose our place.
Hello? Friend? I can touch everything,

but can’t stop thinking. Turns out, thoughts
granulate. Turns out, I never was a girl, I was all

those girls, a girl statue, torch raised, you know the one—
standing in the harbor, wearing a sari.

The tide foams up. Now, I’m so much dust,
I am a continent, absorbing—a thimble full

of mother, angry powder, laughing specks, froth,
filth, lover, crying cinders, particles of mineral wind.

I’m proof that nothing is lost.
You can breathe me in.

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